Friday, January 8, 2010
When I was a little kid I carried a soft, cuddly , cloth "wittle bunny wabbit" wherever I went. It was safe and harmless and I derived much comfort from him. Years passed and when I turned 16 my mom made me a deal--I could get my driver's license if I agreed to quit carrying around "wittle bunny wabbit." I got my license when I was 19. It was tough.
When I was a little boy and eventually a pimple pummeled adolescent I also carried with me--everywhere I went--a soft, cuddly and safe Jesus. He never struggled with a bad thought, and viewed women through the most platonic of eyes. My soft and safe Jesus was scrupulous and compliant; he dotted each and every "i" and crossed all his "t's," while I, on the other hand, was crossing my eyes and making faces at the teacher. For that alone, I knew I was hell-bound on a speeding locomotive.
I didn't have a chance.
My Jesus, when he was about 12, came up missing, according to the gospel accounts, and his frantic parents found him in the temple, of all places. When I was 12 if I had come up missing the absolutely last place my parents would have looked would have been the church. "Oh, I bet Steve's studying in the preacher's office!" Yeh, right. While sinful boys like myself were engaging in everyday sinful activities like baseball and fishing, my soft and safe Jesus, in contrast, was asking his buddies to remove their yarmulke from their head and join him in a bible study.
I didn't have a chance.
I was led to believe that being a Christian--a follower of soft 'n safe Jesus--consisted of following the rules. And the rules were all prohibitive. "Don't. . . " "Thou shalt not. . . " "If you don't want to rot in Hell you better never. . . " I knew what I couldn't do; I had no clue what I could do.
The Christian faith was a negation of life. If it was fun, pleasant to the senses, or savored the moment it had to be wrong and "worldly." And I, on the other hand, was supposed to be "spiritual." God may have created this world for Adam and Eve's enjoyment, but they screwed it up for all of us, and now God is angry and regrets giving us all this "worldly" stuff, and now commands that we avoid, rather than enjoy, it. And besides, God created it for Adam, and my name is Steve.
Darn the luck.
So I guess we are called to live a life of begrudging obedience to the rules. We are to be a squeaky clean example to our unbelieving and used-to-believe friends and whatever we see them doing we are to abstain, while praying for them. That's what my Jesus would do.
Nonetheless, there are some troubling passages in the gospels which, at first glance, seem to paint a different picture of Jesus' lifestyle. Emphasis on "seem to ." There's that incident in John 2 where Jesus is at a wedding and they run out of wine and they go to him, of all people, with their dilemma. " Soft n' safe, life-negating Jesus, we're out of wine! Six stone jars, each containing 20-30 gallons, and we've drunk them dry!! Help!!" Jesus had to be upset with their slurred speech and that they had interrupted a bible study he was leading in the adjacent room, and to make his point and to show them their error of their ways he granted their request, but surely filled the jars with soy milk.
I'll drink to that.
I don't have a chance.