~ Jesus is Not your "Buddy" ~
St. John wrote, " I heard a loud voice behind me like a trumpet... I turned toward the voice... There was someone like the Son of Man... His head and his hair were white like wool - like snow. His eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like glowing bronze refined in a furnace. His voice was like a sound of raging waters... His face was like the sun when it shines in all its brightness." (Revelation 1:10b-16.)
The next thing that John did not say was," Hey there is my Buddy, Jesus!" No, John wrote, " I fell down at his feet like a dead man." (verse 17a) Christ said of Himself, "I am the first and the last, the living one. I was dead, but now I am alive forever. I have the keys of death and hell." (verse 17a-18). This is a Being not to be approached with hugs and back-slapping, but with prostration and worship at His feet.
Yes, in His Gospel account, John recorded Jesus calling us His friends and children. However, the culture and language of the first century Middle East was vastly different than ours in industrialized nations of the beginning of the third millennium AD. Our modern religion is consumerism. We get educated to work in order to get things. The job of our corporate culture is to convince us that we need and want things we don't have. Advertisements are our liturgy and corporations our priests. They determine what our children want. Before our children enter school or participate in the classes of our churches, they will have already been programmed with thirty-thousand ads. Even before they can talk in complete sentences, they can recognize and associate meaning to corporate icons and logos, like the gold arches of a McDonald's restaurant.
This religion of consumerism isn't just cultural background noise we must live in. It is truly the basis of our children's faith that defines for them what they and their existence are about. Whether they know it or not or admit it if they know it, many churches are increasingly using the ways of the world and its corporate priests. Christ said we are in the world and not of the world, but how many of us Christians are living lifestyles that are notably different from our non-Christian neighbors?
A culture of the heavenly kingdom is needed, and we need to talk its language in the world as well as in our churches. Suppose you asked a French-speaking person, in a literal translation, for a light to start a camp fire. He would wonder about you, asking himself how shining a flashlight on some wood is going to get a fire started. Then if you told him, in literal translation, you were going to prepare some hot dogs for dinner, he would be clutching his stomach in revolting disgust.
Language and experience conveys reality. Sadly, we have trivialized the sacred. I once heard a radio discussion on spiritual matters where the host remarked, "It is getting strangely breezy in here. It must be all those cherubs flitting around." Cherubim (the plural of cherub) are typically portrayed as cute, pudgy angels flying around our heads. Some of us call our children our "little cherubs." In reality, cherubim are high ranking guardian-warrior angels, of which Satan was once the overseer. Ezekiel devotes the first chapter of his book to describing them. He writes, "They were shaped like humans, but each of them have four faces and four wings... (They) looked like burning coals and torches. Fire moved back and forth between the living creatures. The fire was bright, and lightning came out of the fire. (They) ran back and forth like lightning." (Ezekiel 1:5b-6, 13-14)
Does that sound like your kid? Or look like anything you saw on a Valentine's Day card? Angels are radiant, powerful spirits who generally needed first to tell humans to whom they appeared to not be afraid, for good reasons! This is one of the realities of God's Kingdom! We trivialize it by using the language of the world rather than of the Kingdom.
While on earth, when His disciples found Jesus in the morning, they might have asked, "How are you, Master?" Can you imagine Jesus replying, "Not bad"? or "Okay"? or "Just another day"? We may smile at the thought because this is not the language of the Kingdom. Yet we, who are of the Kingdom, use a foreign language, that of the world.
Suppose the next time you were asked by a friend or a stranger, "How are you?" you replied, "I am blessed!" or "I am rich in God's grace!" or "I am feeling grateful to God!" Sure, like a foreigner of another culture, you would sound strange. Like our French-speaking friend, however, the person would not quickly dismiss what you said but be forced to think. You would be telegraphing a simple witness of your Kingdom affiliation as its ambassador, opening a door.
Perhaps you'll even get a Kingdom language answer in return, to your delight. Try it despite any embarrassment, for Christ told us to not be ashamed of the Gospel or the Kingdom. Why not sign "In Christ's love" to your non-Christian as well as Christian friends' letters and cards? How about we stop saying, "God bless you" when a stranger sneezes and start saying it when we say good-bye to someone we just met?
What would Jesus do, anyway? Let us stop being cute with the sacred and holy. No six inch angel sits on your right shoulder being your conscience and no six inch devil sits on your left shoulder whispering delightful temptations in your ear. So don't teach these non-realities to your children. Angels are immensely powerful, ministering messengers of our Lord and the putrid stench of hell's denizens and their power is nothing to smile about.
Babies are cute and endearing, so some people think it's fun and cute to make a birthday cake on Christmas and sing "Happy Birthday" to Baby Jesus. The One who describes Himself saying, "I am the Alpha and Omega, the one who is, the one who was, and the one who is coming, the Almighty" (Revelation 1: 8) merits our profound worship and reverence. Jesus is not an alternate Santa Claus; He is not our wish fairy; He is not a buddy to call when we need something; His inconceivably powerful army (heavenly hosts) of angels do not behave like cute little hummingbirds darting about.
"When the Son of man comes in His glory and all His angels are with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. The people of every nation will be gathered in front of Him. He will separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats." (Matthew, 25: 31-32) This is the language of the Kingdom. Christ is not our baby, or our "friend in need" or our helper to assist us in fulfilling our ego-centric, self-indulging plans. Christ is our King and Master, our Redeemer, all-loving yet all-powerful. As King of all, He demands our obedience and our very lives and beings. We love Him and are ecstatic to lay at His feet, worshipping Him "In Spirit and Truth."
As partakers and heirs to the Kingdom of God, we are to immerse ourselves in the Kingdom culture, talk its language, teach this to those in our care, and feel the wondrous beauty of the Kingdom's culture and its great mysteries being nurtured by the Holy Spirit within. Then those around us will not only know we are Americans, people of America (or whatever your nationality is,) but primarily Christians, people of Christ.
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
Weekly Reflections © June 9, 2001
"God's Word" is a copyrighted work of God's Word to the Nations Bible Society. Quotations are used by permission.
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