Tag Archives: Jesus

Baby Jesus, and Secret Hidden Messages Just For You

(in which I present my Christmas thoughts this year by discussing not so secret messages, which version of Jesus you prefer, The Mandalorian (Baby Yoda), The Book Thief, Death, Birth, and All Things New.)

 

I just finished reading “The Book Thief.” I was given the book by someone who told me that the narrator reminded them of me. It didn’t take too long into it that I realized the narrator is Death.
That’s its own thing, but given how much my head’s been swirling lately, and just how many thoughts go circling around up there, I can see the similarities.
But it’s the last line that really clinched it for me, a last note from the narrator.

I am haunted by humans.”

It’s true. Well…it’s true that that’s how the book ends. But not just that.
It’s true of me too. I am haunted by humans. One of the greatest gifts I can say I’ve gotten was stories of old, of people I never met nor knew. Letters written. Windows into just a PART of someone’s life.

But isn’t that what a story is anyway? Just a window? A person is so much more. And to know the person is SO much more than just knowing the story.

Every story ever told really happened.
Stories…are where memories go when they’re forgotten.”

I can’t speak to why memories get forgotten, but I can say with a certain conviction that stories impact us all differently, and the emotions they elicit in each of us individually can be just as varied as their impact.
But stories have themes. They may even have recurring messages. Some are poetically weaved throughout—subtle. And others are overtly stated right at the beginning.
In The Book Thief, the last line is the narrator stating, “I am haunted by humans.” But one of the first lines is this: “HERE’S A SMALL FACT You are going to die.”

Seems a bit overt, probably probing, begging you to ask yourself the question, “Am I okay with this? Am I okay with dying?” Maybe even makes you get a bit more philosophical in your self reflection and introspection, “What’s it mean to die? What’s it mean to be alive? What’s it mean to die while still living?”
But the more I read on, the more I realized that the Book Thief is less about the character of Liesel Meminger, and more a character study of Death itself; AND as a result, a means of which causes you, the reader, to engage with the character of Death, and perhaps more subtly, your relationship to that character—to Death.

How do you relate to Death?

 

Well. Going back to Christmas. We’ve got a story of Birth, not Death (though, maybe as you’ll see soon, perhaps the story of Christmas is as much as story of Death as it is of Birth).
Put simply, I think the story of Christmas, of Bethlehem, and of the birth of a baby—the revelation that the most important thing in the universe is an infant—also serves to reveal more about you, the reader, and how you engage with each character.
It’s almost inescapable.
Unavoidable.
And ohhhh how we try so hard to do so. Let’s make it about making sure we say the right thing around the holiday, or do the right thing, or buy the right thing. Let’s keep busy. Let’s not think too hard. Let’s do just enough acknowledgment that we feel we’ve serviced the “heart” of the holiday, but not in a way where it changes us, or causes us anxiety about ourselves. Let’s not think too hard about it so as to ask the questions that REALLY SHOULD be asked, the ones that may just bring about the end of us.
It is, after all, simply the birth of the “Savior,” and we KNOW what name to write on the birthday cake.

And it’s the end of the story—the death and resurrection—that we’re left with.

But what does the beginning tell us? What does it reveal about ourselves?
Which version of Jesus do YOU pray to?

I started this post with a clip from Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. It’s probably my favorite scene from that film because it presents such a real and honest display of everything I’ve been saying up to this point.
What version of Jesus you prefer and like the best says more about you than it does about Jesus.

And what’s wrong with liking the baby version the best?
Because it’s weak? Because it’s not the savior? Because it requires care and a more delicate hand on your part?

See, the grown up, bearded man version of Jesus is the one we go to. That’s the one that “carries us” when we’re struggling (why there’s only one set of footprints). The grown up version is the one that takes care of US, dies for US, saves US.
But the baby version…well…the baby version requires YOU to care for IT. The baby version requires YOU to take care of IT.

It’s the baby version that requires YOU to die for IT.

The baby version requires more on your part. More questions. More self reflection. More introspection. More anxiety. Maybe even the end of you. It requires honesty. Vulnerability.
It requires being an adult. Being a parent. Care. Tenderness. Protection. Realness. Stress.
Humanity.
You feeling weak, frustrated, open to hurt.
It requires you being human.
Sooo…

How do YOU relate to BABY Jesus?

See, I don’t think that’s a question we want to ask ourselves. So we project. We know the end of the story, after all. And the holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus becomes more about what the end of the story means.

I am haunted by humans.”

Recently—much like most redblooded Americans—I began watching Disney+’s “The Mandalorian.” It didn’t take long to reveal the big shocker of the series: a baby Yoda.

Image result for baby yoda
Friggin adorable. You should see him eat a frog. Or play with spaceship controls. Or disobey.

Whoa! Spoilers!” You say. To which I respond with, “Welcome to the internet.”

But the series turns heel at that moment. And what you THOUGHT was a story about one character and his history, becomes about how he relates to an infant.
See he doesn’t know baby Yoda, or what a Yoda species means, it’s power, rarity, bigger narrative implications. He just sees an infant. An adorable one.
And come episode three, the titular Mandalorian abandons everything to take care of the infant.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens at the story’s end, because we the audience don’t know what this baby is, or how important it is, or what will happen to it in the overall narrative.
Like we do with the infant born in a middle eastern cave, and laid in a food troth.
We know the end there. “It is finished.” (Though I don’t think all of us understand the end…)

What if all we had was the beginning (of the story)?

Over the course of my teaching career, I’ve had countless times where students have approached me to say they’re convinced I said something in class just for them. Like I was speaking for their benefit, and speaking directly and only to them. Like I was coding secret messages in a general message JUST to reach out to them.
Funny thing about truth is that sometimes it pierces in such a personal way that it feels as if it’s talking to JUST US. And I won’t lie, sometimes I DID code secret messages in a general message JUST to reach out to specific individuals.

But sometimes a story can feel so personal simply because we think we know the ending. Or maybe that the storyteller does. We think we have it all figured out, the story. It’s like that with people too. We think we know the ending. Or that the other person does.
When in reality, it’s just the beginning. And what that means to us is that we don’t know the ending.
We only know that the story has truly just begun.
And that lack of knowing what happens next, well…if we think we have it figured out, what do we need the story for? What do we need another person for?

Personally, this year has brought about a lot of change. Like…a LOT.
This year has brought about the end of me in so many ways, it’s impossible to fully get into without long, drawn out conversations that stretch far into the night.
And anyone that knows me well enough knows how difficult and challenging this season has always been to me. Not just Christmas, but my birthday as well (which happens to be coming up soon, and falls prior to Christmas). This whole season, just difficult no matter WHAT else is going on in my life.
And I can always tell the struggle has begun because—without FAIL—my lower back begins to hurt to the point of debilitation. This year it hit two days ago. And each year I think, “Gah. What did I do? How’d I pull my back THIS bad??” And then I realize this happens EVERY YEAR.

But something clicked this year that has changed what I view this season to be. No, not that it cured my lower back pain.
The theme. What’s at the heart of the story of this season? The birth? Baby Jesus? All the questions and self reflection and introspection that relating to Baby Jesus brings?

Do not be afraid.” Zacharias. Joseph. Mary. The shephards. “Do not be afraid.”
This is one of the first lines of the narrative in both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke that provide us the Nativity Story, the birth of Jesus.
Do not be afraid.”
THIS is the theme of the story. Each of these characters may have been told the importance of Jesus, what Jesus will be, all of it. But what they were facing in the here and now was this: an infant. A baby.
“A baby changes everything…”

How much responsibility. Care.
The END of you. A NEW relationship.

And it’s scary. It’s frightening. There’s SO many what-ifs. And it will more than likely be the end of you. But all of this is GOOD NEWS. The END of FEAR. Which is good news in itself.

You have everything to fear, and yet you’re told, “It’s okay. You have nothing to fear.”

This is how the story starts. Overtly.
And if anything is subtly weaved throughout the rest of the story, it’s this message.

So I may not know the future. I don’t, actually. Just like I don’t know what’s gonna happen in The Mandalorian, or if having a baby Yoda is somehow going to play into The Rise of Skywalker.
I don’t know it. And not knowing the story can be very scary. And present the end of me.

But I’m not afraid.

And no, this isn’t me making a subtle secret message. (But then again, I’m not that good of a storyteller.) I’m not being poetic, I’m not being mysterious or obscure.
I’m saying this directly and overtly.

DO NOT BE AFRAID.”
I bring you good news. And it’s this: You don’t have to be afraid.

This will change everything, sure. It’ll be the end of you, sure. But you don’t have to fear it.
You don’t have to fear anything that causes you fear.

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays.
For this is only the beginning. And it’s not just a season. It’s a new life.
THIS is the new year. And none of us have anything to fear.

It’s true. WHEREVER you find love, it feels like Christmas.”

And Christmas means YOU HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR.
So…WHEREVER you find love…DON’T BE AFRAID.
THAT’S good news.

There is no fear in love…perfect love casts out fear.” – 1st John 4:18

 

And I believe THAT is worth giving thanks.

So.
Let’s all give thanks to tiny, 8lbs 6oz, newborn infant Jesus, who doesn’t even know his shapes and colors.

 

(UP NEXT:What is Love? Baby Don’t Hurt Me… A Reexamination of the Film, Warm Bodies”)

->and the world WILL be better for this…

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A Broken Hallelujah or…an Apt Title for What Can Simply be Referred to as My ‘Spiritual Journey’

When I hear the words ‘spiritual journey,’ it’s difficult to keep my mind from thinking that what is desired is a whole bunch of Christian jargon strung together to formulate so cohesive a whole that it ends up looking like a religious résumé, where words and phrases like ‘hard-working,’ and ‘honest,’ are replaced with ‘repented(ance),’ and ‘it was me who murdered Jesus.’

Truth is, I believe at my core that the ‘journey’—the ‘Pilgrim’s progress from this world to that which is to come’ IS Jesus.
And Jesus is (and, through His revelation, has become) so much bigger and grander than I have ever imagined or can imagine.

I honestly don’t know if I’ve been fully ‘converted.’ Like the woman at the well, I’ve tasted living water, yet unlike what the Scriptures say, I’ve gone away thirsty again…and again…and again, as if I forget the presence of Jesus—His love and His grace. So I wander off; forgetting what is good, and even at times forgetting to remember. It’s like I’ve been awoken from a dream to reality: seeing the proverbial windmills for what they truly are (giants), and yet fall back asleep again, forgetting that it’s a dream, thinking giants to be ‘just windmills,’ and this world to be what is, not what isn’t.

Why?

If I’ve truly had a ‘conversion’ why do I not feel fully ‘converted?’

In my history, I’ve had the private time as a child alone in my room, ‘asking’ Jesus to come into my heart (as if the drawing to him—the romance was entirely up to me), battled sickness and disease meant to take my life (or at the very least, my spirit), I’ve been brought to utter ruin at the hands of others (and still bear the scars on my body to prove it), brought myself to utter ruin (time and time again), lived a year or so in utter anger towards my maker (never once forsaking or denying truth, but despising it all the same), made a covenant with God that I would follow Him and do what He brought to me to do (in a state of loneliness of drink and smoke, where I felt as if I made my ‘bed in Sheol’ and yet, He was still there with me), fallen in and ‘out’ of love, struggled with grace, wrestled with unrelenting love, and come to see that at the center of it all, in it all, through it all, IS JESUS.

So I keep coming back. Back when my ‘brains dry up,’ back when my spirit runs dry. Because to me, I have not had a ‘conversion experience;’ that is to say rather, I believe Jesus is AT ALL TIMES SINCE BEFORE MY BIRTH CONVERTING ME.
And it’s a process that both hurts and frees.
It’s a process that requires me to be ‘unmade’ in order that one day I will be fully ‘made;’ made in the image of God.
I believe the converting fire is a refiner’s fire, and that fire is good. For fire is what burns away that which is not real, to bare that which is.
And lately, that fire has been burning hot.

I have seen myself as God sees me. Not through an absence of my sin, my failures, my mistakes, my ruin, but all encompassing. That I am created for no other reason but love, and loved for no other reason but I’m created.
And that for me to see that, I NEED a nature that keeps me from God, for it is because of that nature that keeps me from Him, that He sent His son. While I was/am still a sinner, CHRIST DIED FOR ME. I cannot see His unrelenting love and His irresistible grace that is Christ Jesus without seeing and knowing that because of my sin nature, God demonstrated His love, that there is nothing in me and of me that makes God love me. He just loves because He IS LOVE.

Thus, it’s not that I ‘chose’ to be converted—that I ‘chose’ the Way, but the Way CHOSE ME. Not only that, but the Way is constantly choosing me, constantly in the process of converting me, until such a time as “It is finished.”

What do I wish to do then? I wish to be a voice.
I wish to vocalize the unrelenting Love and irresistible Grace of God.
Not to bring, but to reveal.
Not to convert, but to be an ambassador.
To show just where Jesus IS in other’s lives, and reveal how HE HAS LOVED THEM.
To bring others to see that Jesus isn’t the Way OUT OF THE FIRE, but THROUGH IT. That as C.S. Lewis says of Aslan, Jesus isn’t at all safe, but He is good.
And that is something to trust in.
That Jesus will bring about the death of you.
But that part of experiencing the love that is all around us, in us, through us, working, like Paul says in the beginning of Colossians.
And I have come to believe that part of that calling requires further education and credentials (a Masters in Theology) on my part, in order to have clout and backing to wherever He is calling me to, and placing me in specifically.

Beyond that—that is, what that is exactly, is still veiled to me, and that’s okay. For just as the story has been told whether I know its details or not, it will continue to do so. All I can do is what is and has always been in me to do: to seek where God is, what He is doing, and my part in it all.
This pursuit has led me in and out of service in the Church, be it leading Bible studies, being a group leader, leading a college group on Metro Campus, leading worship, being part of various worship teams, volunteering in various capacities in my present church, to working in retail, and teaching Early Childhood for 4 years, getting married, writing and maintaining a blog, writing and composing music, the possibility of writing for the Religion section of an online News Source, the possibility of being an adjunct at Metro State and teaching a course on Hell, gaining jobs, losing them, and going in and out of the ‘Wilderness.’

And no, it hasn’t always BEEN SAFE, but it’s been good.

Of late, that safety has been less and less a reality. We’ve come to see just what a young married couple can survive on whilst still maintaining bill pay, insurance, rent, when one is working full time and one is on meager unemployment. Yet deeper than mere fiscal safety, a spiritual safety and trust has been tested—tempered.

Song # 1 to listen to whilst reading this:

It’s strange to think that it grew to be easy to say that I would and do trust not merely God himself, but that He IS Good—that I am not afraid, that He WILL provide what is good, He will show just what path I’m meant to take, but compared to the difficulty faced presently, of course it would seem easy to say previously.
And yet even with the difficulty and challenges staring me—us, square between the eyes, and the ease at which I could just give up, stop fighting, stop seeking, stop longing, to question God’s goodness, God’s faithfulness, God’s love, I still can’t seem to bring myself to do it.
No matter how much I may want to.
No matter how much I think I do give up in the darkest of moments; alone, longing for the sanctuary of sleep, but cannot bring my heart to stop pounding, my head to stop swimming.

But that’s just the thing about hope, I guess.

Hope is what has spurred me ever forward, never satisfied, constantly seeking, and yet also presented me with some of my greatest challenges, obstacles, and disappointments. You see, when there is hope—true hope, I’ve learned that one pours all they have and all they are into their endeavors; and that can be a very dangerous thing to do when one is not prepared to be scorned and covered with scars. For hope leads to reality beyond what is seen, heard, felt, but it can also lead to heartache, heart break, and being battered and war torn.

Is this ideal? I don’t truly know. For I cannot rest assure and put forth that my relentless hope has led solely to accolades, accomplishments, honors, and prestige. Whether I’m an old fool of a soul yet or not, one thing’s for sure, the parallels between Don Quixote and I seem to grow more deep and rich.

Hope.

My hope, in its unrelenting way has many times left me realizing I’m merely fighting windmills, or that royalty are merely mule drivers. Yet Quixote could not give up hope. Hope that he was something beyond what people saw, and therefore called to fight for what is not seen. To the world and everyone in it, his brains dried up. To him, he had awoken from a dream into what was truly reality, and he lived fighting to bring about what ‘should be’—or at the very least, make it what ‘could be’ to those and for those still sleeping.

The world considered him mad; a madman in world prone to see the extraordinary as ordinary, yet void of the ability to see the ordinary as extraordinary. I hold that Quixote’s madness lay not in having the ability to do both, but verily, in the hope of bringing his reality to the world’s doorstep and into its house.

My Wife, Ricci, has been reading a book in which at one point the main character comes to a fork in the road with a sign post labeling each direction which reads:
“Lose your way”
“Lose your mind”
“Lose your life”
“Lose your heart”

It struck me as an interesting question to be presented with: if faced with the choice of losing one of these, which would you actually choose?

I wish it were that easy.

For I’ve been in a constant seeking my entire life of just what is my ‘way,’ so to lose what it seems I have not yet found is to fall into a groove of assuming I have found a way, yet it being the wrong one.
I’ve lost my life (or so it feels) time and time again, so the loss of that does not seem to be so difficult a path for me to walk down, yet with the unceasing hope God has created me with, I cannot seem to shake that there is a reason I’m still here, still traversing, still purposed.

Thus, the challenge would be choosing between losing my heart or losing my mind.
Having lost my heart plenty, and trying (in vain) to guard against that, I would not under any circumstances choose that path again. And truly, having seemingly traversed the roads and ways I have thus far, I can’t shake the feeling that to lose your heart and to lose your life may be one and the same road, if not, then at the very least being parallel.

If it were up to me, I’d take the path to lose my mind.
The problem is not knowing before I head down that path whether or not I still will feel when my heart gets broken, or lost, or hurt. Would I know? Would I be concerned?
What if I have already lost my mind? Again, can unrelenting hope when surrounded by hopelessness be considered madness?
Then I’m mad. I’ve already lost it.
And I still feel every hurt, every ache, every heart break.

And I still feel mad, I look at myself and think “you must be crazy.” After all this, to still continue on, to still Dream the Impossible Dream.
So perhaps I’ve taken the way of losing my mind long ago, and–it being my first path, have traversed all the rest without realizing it. Loss of way, loss of heart, loss of life.

I just can’t for the life of me give up and give in. I feel urged to press forward, onward, upward, into or out of darkness.

And I’ve got to keep believing that the world will truly be, ‘better for this.’

Song # 2 to listen to:

Song # 3 to listen to:

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Truth. Justice. The American Way. How Does Jesus Rank Up to Superman’s Ideology?

“Do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in HELL.”

I’ve had a lot of *God-given* time on my hands recently and have taken up to reading/rereading anything and everything that has caught my eye and fancy. Two such books—which, admittedly are starkly different in every sense of being different is Francis Chan’s “Erasing Hell,” and The Superman story arc, “Grounded.”

“Erasing Hell,” appears to have much to say about the recent topic of whether or not Hell exists, just what it is, and who’s going. While there is much I can say about it (all critical of its errancies and detriments), I will simply say that the feeling you get at the end—be it a follower of Christianity or not, is one of fear, doing more damage than good. Jesus is your only ticket of escape from Hell (a place of both ‘judgment,’ but also ‘punishment’), and you only get the opportunity to “choose” in this lifetime. If you haven’t chosen yet, are you sure you wanna go to Hell? And if you have chosen already, are you sure that you’ve really chosen?

I will warrant that Chan seems to have a good heart; a heroically large heart for Justice.

But not—as they say, a heart in the right place.

In “Grounded,” Superman—who feels he has lost touch with (not only*) humanity (*but American humanity), decides to take a walk (not fly) across America in order to regain a connection to why he became a hero in the first place.
Now it must be known that two different authors with two very different views as to what should be conveyed of Superman in this series wrote it. The author of the first half apparently wished to convey that superheroes have a disconnect from the common person, while the later chalks it up to Superman himself merely being depressed and grieving over recent events, the former shows Superman as he deals (apparently) for the first time with moral ambiguity, while the later shares in this struggle, but credits it to his clouded judgment caused by grief and depression.
I don’t need to get into a critique of which I preferred or thought was better, I merely wish to convey that both had their aspects and points which I took away.

(For the best critique I found on the series in its entirety, look here for a comparison, and here for just on the first volume.)

The story does indeed take an interesting twist when—in the penultimate issue of the series, Clark Kent goes out with a “Superman expert” somewhere in Portland, and asks various locals—strangers—the common man, questions about the hero. And while it is a great note that in the first volume, a woman—the voice of critique of Superman, calls him a gun, meaning that he being around can only be dangerous, it ends with the affirmation that Superman himself, is loved and appreciated for what he does, not the potential he has to do.

The following are the questions, and responses:

To a young boy: [whilst pointing to his Superman shirt] “Are you afraid of the guy this stands for?”

“Are you kidding? It stands for Superman! Who would be afraid of him?”… “Superman can do anything! But he only beats up bad guys, right? So why should I be afraid of him?”

To a woman: “Do you fear or distrust Superman?”

“What? Well, no! If you ask me, he’s all about the Truth.”… “It[is] more important to Superman to tell us a harsh but necessary truth than it was to go with a comforting lie.”

To a man: “Do you think that Superman harms or even kills the villains he captures?”

“Superman? Kill a dude? No WAY. Sometimes you kind of wish he would, when you see some of the monsters he goes up against.”… “I mean, I don’t know if I’d be able to hold back.”

Lastly, asking a family: “Do you resent the fact that Superman has superpowers and you don’t?”

“Resent him? We thank heaven every day that he can do things we cannot do.”… “He helps everyone who needs him.”

This last one can be seen at the end of the previous comic when Superman has an argument with his long time pal, Jimmy Olsen, about his redeeming an out of control super powered girl from destroying Las Vegas. (At one point, Superman noting that, “She’s acting like a child throwing a tantrum.”) Jimmy questions Superman’s willingness to not only save her from herself, but “sticking up” for her in court, noting how much—even after all this, that she hates him (Superman). Superman states that “We’ve all made mistakes. And everybody deserves a second chance.”

Ending the series left me curious just how people felt about the concept of Jesus.
So I printed out the two pictures below, and went around my neighborhood asking random people the same questions; first about the image of the Superman symbol, then about the image of the Cross and Jesus.

*Note* I did NOT—however, ask the same demographic of people the same questions. (That being, I did not try to find a young boy, a woman, a man, and a family of immigrants. I simply asked who was willing to talk the questions.)

1) “Are you afraid of the guy this stands for?”

Superman responses ranged from, “No, he’s a comic book character, he doesn’t exist,” to me clarifying the question of if he did exist, would you be afraid of him, “sort of. I mean, who’s to say I’m not as bad as the bad guys he faces? I don’t know what he would think about good and bad in our world. Would he seek me out for ‘justice’?”
Jesus responses also ran about the same: “No, I mean, I believe Jesus existed, but not what Christianity says about him, and I think he would say something like ‘keep on trying to be good,’ you know, ‘love people,’ ‘don’t start wars,’ that kind of thing. So yeah, I wouldn’t be afraid of him.”

This was the best capture, thought it is interesting to note that many felt a bit ‘superstitious,’ and that flat out saying, “I’m not afraid of Jesus,” would cause something bad to happen to them. Which would cause one to surmise that yes indeed, on some level, there is a fear of Jesus.

2) “Do you fear or distrust Superman/Jesus?”

This question ran a bit similar to the first in both cases of Superman and Jesus, but when it came to the concept of ‘truth’—when I probed a bit to get more of the response shown in the comic, I ended up changing the question to: “Do you think Superman/Jesus has a true character? That is to say, does Superman/Jesus represent a value for truth above all?”

It was then that I found that people’s responses shifted to a sense of knowing a person. They seemed to say that yes—at first token, both Superman and Jesus are about Truth. Various people spouted off slogans and coined phrases of each, to say that yes, Superman and Jesus are all about truth. Some responded that Superman stands for “truth, justice, and the American way,” and that Jesus said he was, “the truth, the life, and the light, and the way (though—many didn’t get all that, it was something that their mind went to, even if they didn’t know the full phrase.).”

Yet when further questioned, almost everyone stated that there was no way of knowing for sure, save for knowing them personally. (Some deeper thinkers even asserted the question as to whether or not they—being “higher beings” have a different, or even fuller concept of truth than we have.) That to know if they believe in truth, in absolute truth, value truth, fight for it; to know for sure can only be to know them personally; that it could just as easily be something attributed to them.

3) “Do you think that Superman harms or even kills the villains he captures?”

To Superman, near everyone—whether having some, none, or vast knowledge of the Super Hero, responded that no, Superman doesn’t kill, nor torture. Those that had more knowledge emphasized that he only did when he was under the control of Red Kryptonite,’ a substance which—essentially, changes Superman into an entirely different character.

When it came to the Jesus side of the questioning, this got a little tricky and I had to rephrase it as follows:

“Do you think that Jesus punishes or turns away—sends to Hell, bad people?”

And to this, resoundingly the answer was yes. Many would say that Jesus ate and hung out with ‘sinners,’ bad people, but if they didn’t choose him, or follow him, God would send them to Hell. And that that’s where ‘bad people’ go.

Depending on how the conversation was going, I would then follow up by asking the first question again: “Does this make you afraid of Jesus—if you felt Him to actually be real?”

To which, the answer became, “yes.” Generally the consensus was that how are we to be judged as ‘bad’ if we spend our whole lives trying to be ‘good?’ That someone I don’t know sends me to Hell just for not knowing him is evil and scary, so ‘yes,’ there is reason to be afraid.

4) “Do you resent the fact that Superman has superpowers and you don’t?”

This was fun one to ask. For in our world, there aren’t super powered heroes (and if there were, they’d end up looking a lot more that characters from the comic/film “Kick-Ass,” than super powered beings), and so everyone wishes for some sort of power. When I brought up the mantra that “with power comes responsibility,” responses all kept generally the same. “I would use them to take care of my family and loved ones,” to “yeah, I do some stuff to people, like get back at people that wronged me, mess with jerks at work, but mostly help people.” While people generally found that they’d desire to mess with people, for the most part, if they had powers, they’d (like to think so, anyway) use them for ‘good.’
As with question three, this one is a bit tricky when it comes to Jesus, and the rephrase was as follows:

“Do you think it’s fair that Jesus has the power to save you, and you don’t?”

This I found especially interesting. Not just as a question, but as something to respond to. For when it came to having powers, people generally stuck with using their powers to help people. No one thought nor brought up the concept of saving one’s self. Yet merely positing this question suggests that the people I questioned themselves may in fact need saving.

And not only that, but that they are powerless themselves to do so.

It was generally at this point, I was asked if I work for a church, or was doing some sort of ‘city evangelism,’ and was either dismissed or—to some, allowed to say that I’m just a guy who’s curious—a reporter of sorts; and in those cases share my own personal views on Jesus, on God, and on Hell.

These are my thoughts.

Jesus is indeed recorded by two different gospel authors as saying the line I began this post with:
“Be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Hell.”Matt. 10: 28

And this is exactly the mentality that—at least in his book, ‘Erasing Hell,’ Francis Chan seems to convey having.

Be afraid.
Be very afraid.

Yet what is not stated in his book is that following this Jesus talks of sparrows, and tells all that are listening not to be afraid.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”Matt. 10: 29-30

Is it scary that Jesus can ‘fry’ us? That He has the ability to obliterate us completely?

Yeah.

Yeah, it is.

And it should be.

Yet Jesus does not want this to be the final thought on the matter. He wants to make clear that while there is that power, there is also that love and care. That those He’s speaking to—humanity is worth so much more to God.

So is it His intention to ‘punish,’ as Chan would have you believe? I feel a closer look at the whole of Scripture without the dogmatic lenses will show that no, that’s not only not His intention, but that’s not His plan either.

Colossians 1:16 says at the end “ALL THINGS were created by Him and for Him.” This means that everything that has been created, has been created for Him. I don’t know a way to argue that what is meant here is “all manner of things,” or “all types of things,” rather than EVERYTHING, ALL THINGS, as Francis Chan would lead you to believe it means. For to say what Chan says, is to then say that ALL THINGS were not actually created by Jesus, which would make Him not the Word that John begins His Gospel stating.

John goes on to quote Jesus in chapter 6: 37-39 as saying, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.”

God gave Jesus ALL THINGS. And all that the Father gives Him will come to Him. And He’ll raise them up at the last day.

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is constantly referred to as atonement, as justice, as God’s judgment—the place where God’s ‘wrath’ was placed. You can see for yourself in just some I’ll post here: Col. 2: 13-15, Romans 3: 21-26, John 12: 31-33 Yet the question is often posited, “What is Justice?” With many taking it to mean and refer to something that will happen when we are ‘judged’ at the end times—the last day. But judgment has already happened. Further, is ‘justice’ getting what ‘we deserve?’ Lastly, what do we ‘deserve?’

Many—like Chan I would surmise, say that we ‘deserve’ Hell. But Jesus came in and saved the Day.

I would say that what we ‘deserve’ is not Hell, but grace.

We ‘deserve’ GRACE.

For what is grace but something undeserved? And if someone would argue against deserving grace, then they would be saying that they don’t deserve something that’s undeserved—thus in effect stating that they have to earn it.

Yet is it really about us? Or is it about God?

Is ‘justice’ really about us getting what we deserve, or about God getting what God deserves?

So then what does God deserve? His will come to completion? All glory and honor and praise?

What would have that come about?

Salvation for all?

Grace poured out over all?

All to come to ‘know’ Him?

And anyway, what’s Jesus role in that?

So where does that leave us (humanity, and each of us individually)?

Superman is known to stand for truth, justice, and the American way. Yet if Superman were real, I would have my reservations. Someone that powerful, that pure, will always divide people. It will bring out the best, and the worst. He is indeed like having a weapon around—the mere fact of his being brings danger.

So yes, in some ways I would be quite afraid of Superman. His power, his ideals, AND what he would ask of me, someone so insignificant and powerless.

Could I trust him?
Could I trust him knowing that he could at any point become influenced by red kryptonite or magic, and thereby become an entirely different person?

In many ways Jesus is exactly the same way. Does he have all power and authority? T
he Bible says He does.
Could He destroy me—both body and soul, in an instant?
He says He can.

Should I be afraid?
Yes. Most definitely.

Is fear the end of it?
Not at all.

The Bible does indeed say that “Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom,” but it does not say it’s the end. In fact, in 1 John it says that perfect love casts out fear, for fear has to do with punishment.

Fear of God may be the beginning, but it’s not the end.

What is?

Well, Jesus said “it is finished,” on the cross. Further, in the passage where that says perfect love casts out fear, it also says that this is love: God loving us and sending His son as an atoning sacrifice—as judgment, as justice, for our sins.

The ‘end’ is the cross, the end is love.

God is love.

God is the end.

I think the main struggle facing Superman in his quest to reconnect is to know for sure if—even if he isn’t safe to be around, that who he is and what he stands for is worth something, has meaning: that he is good.

I also think in many ways we struggle with Jesus in this same capacity. Yet while Superman can be affected by things to turn him into something he’s not. God never changes. “The steadfast love of God endures forever.” Jesus is that steadfast love, he never changes.

Is he safe to be around?

Not
at
all.

But not because he has the propensity to be two different people—one who loves and one who condemns who he chooses, but because Jesus—like Superman, is a dividing force. He has the ability to bring out both the good and the bad. And indeed in all there is both good and bad.

Yet when we (Francis Chan included) make him out to be someone that loves and condemns, saves some, sends others to hell and punishment, we make Jesus out to be two.

But He’s one.

We are two.

And ‘on the last day’ we will be separated. The good of us from the bad of us. Read the end of Isaiah—66: 22-24 and try to tell me that that doesn’t mean to say that God will redeem all at the cost of splitting them, that the part of us (every one of us) that ‘rebels’ against God is not cast in the fire, while the part that is created and redeemed by God in Jesus (ALL MANKIND) celebrates and praises.

To quote C.S. Lewis talking of Aslan, Jesus isn’t safe. Nobody said anything about safe. He’s A LION.

But He is good.

And that is truth, justice, and the American way.

For Jesus IS [THE] Truth.
His atonement and joyful sacrifice IS Justice for all mankind.
And He IS The Way [far grander than merely American], The Life, and The Light.

And the world will be better for this.

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