Living Jesus’ Way is impossible. And, maybe that is the point. Limited to our own understanding and the way we think the world works could not possibly open up space for us to love our enemies. After all were we to possess our own drones, we would take out our own enemies with precision and sterility.
Appealing to our inherent waffling we identify with the Apostle Paul in Romans 7. Despite its various interpreters it is clear he addresses the human proclivity to set aside what may be better for what is not so good. And, we may look square in the face of what would be detrimental and embrace it as if we could somehow skirt the consequences.
Combine the impossibility of Jesus’ way of denial and our penchant for an appeal to our frailty, it is little wonder we do not spend much time with Jesus in the Gospels. N.T. Wright was asked what he would tell his children knowing he would be leaving them in death. “What would you want them to know?” (See the video in the right sidebar or below.)
In short Wright said he would encourage his children not to treat the Gospels as appetizers on the way to the “meat” of the New Testament in Paul and Peter. Read the Gospels. Read Jesus.
I enjoy sharing Bible Study each week with young adults with small children. Regularly we are confronted with questions those little ones pose to their parents, questions related to life and faith and the love of God. These are not questions with simple answers. More importantly these questions leave us realizing that in some ways our own answers were really non-answers. Ever more I find myself wanting to urge parents to do what Wright suggests, read the Gospels, read Jesus.
The Ex-Reverend repeatedly gets to what he sees as Christians giving away the core – Jesus. Too often Christians too quickly make excuses for not living out the Way of Jesus, as if that will somehow maintain a helpful image for Jesus in the world. After all, honesty is the best policy. What may be a better, more honest way forward, is to realize that what we really do not want to do is give up our way for Jesus’ Way.
So,for instance, we minimize the Sermon on the Mount as a means to make us desperate for a Jesus who will save of from what we cannot do. Yet, by the time we get to the favored Paul we are as careful to avoid his description of what living out the Way of Jesus may look like, “The fruit of the Spirit is love . . . .” I find Willard’s vision of the Sermon on the Mount much more compelling. Jesus calls would be followers into a Way they may live when willing to stop managing their impulses and intending to live into the vision Jesus gives for being wholly human.
This brings me back to reading the Gospels, reading Jesus. It is not to set other New Testament writers over against Jesus. But, I find it hard to make sense of what Peter, Paul and others write when we strip away the sacrificial, suffering Way of Jesus.