01 October 2014

The Jesus Part

by The late Frank Turk

What you never expected here is more than one post on something topical, but this subject is, frankly, one where a lot of people become unhinged in order to even consider it -- that is, first they become unhinged, and then they consider it.

I have actually already explained the reasons why -- and some of you (the faithful few, the ones who missed me while I was on hiatus) understood what I had to say.  Two weeks ago, it was the necessary idea that you had better deal with actual human beings in your approach and not exploding watermelons (or some other iteration of 3/5th of a person) -- you have to deal with the people who are actually involved in a way that you can demonstrate you know they have been injured in some way.  It's a topic I have dealt with before, but because we always forget it I have dealt with it again.

Last week, I exposed you to our common dirty little secret -- which is that we love to have enemies.  We love to hear other people run down our enemies, and to think that somehow we are not our own worst enemies in all situations.  It's actually the other side of the coin of dehumanizing other people -- it gives us the means to not only think less of what happened to them, but to insidiously think more of ourselves, to think more of our way of seeing the  problem and our cost of doing business with them.

But if we find ourselves realizing that the other guy is actually a human being and in the larger scheme of things -- that is, God's scheme of things, the way things run right now until Christ returns -- the person whose motives we ought to question first is not the other guy but you personally, now what?  I mean: what would be different in Ferguson, MO, if that was the way people were reacting instead of the way they have actually reacted?  And when do we get to the Jesus part?

Well, I fooled you.  I've been back for weeks now, and I fooled you because that's who I really am, and frankly that's who you really are.  You forget the basics of the Christian faith all the time, and sometimes you even find yourself rejecting them in spite of being as reformed and protestant and evangelical and biblical as possible.  This here is the Jesus part.

Look: The Jesus part reads like this when Paul tells it:
Put to death ... what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
"Oh Frank," some of you are warning.  "Oh Frank Frank Frank.  You have mistaken the Gospel for the Law, Frank.  You have swapped the indicative and the imperative, Frank.  Chris Rosebrough is going to podcast you, Frank.  You should have stayed on Hiatus."

Well, hogwash. The Gospel is not merely what Christ has done, but what Christ has done for us.  Jesus is not a metaphysical performance artist or merely a spectacle: Jesus is a Savior.  Jesus does something to us and for us which, if it is real, changes us in the world.

Yes, that's right: I said, "if it is real."  What Jesus did is not real if it doesn't result in something here where we can see it.  That's what's hidden in the ellipse in the quote from Col 3, above: that world-affirming word "THEREFORE."
If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 
See: the Jesus part is not merely that He did something, but that it is done for us and it changes us and it makes something so true that when we set our minds on it and its final reward, THEREFORE this world changes for us.  We change in this world.

Just imagine a Savior who does something
and then nobody is actually saved, nobody
is moved or changed in status or position.
What kind of "savior" is that?
So the first piece of the Gospel which overcomes racism is that what Jesus has done solves the problems of culture by putting to death what is earthly about you.  In the idiom of W.E.B.DuBois, the Gospel ends the question of whether or not any man can impose a double consciousness on another, or whether any man ought to accept it as he recons himself.  All false consciousnesses are defeated by Christ.  All anger, wrath, slander, and obscene talk must be put away before him.  All evil desires.

And the one in whom this must be true first -- if it is true -- is not the other guy.  You are not waiting for the other guy's salvation and then sanctification before you start glancing at your moral shortcomings.  You personally (you say) will appear with Him in Glory because you have died and are hidden away with Christ in God.

For those who missed it, this is the MLK message in a nutshell.  I know Dr. King did NOT say anything about Jesus directly in the "I Have a Dream" speech, but he did say, explicitly, "We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force."  That is: whoever we are, if we are going to defeat the indignity and evil of racism and discrimination, we must go first and meet it with how we have changed.

Therefore: it must be you first if Racism is to be defeated.  It must be you first if there is still an enemy in this world -- because I promise you, it is you first for whom you will be accountable to God when Jesus does return with his winnowing fork and his great Fire.  You will wish it had been you first when he asks you about it, I am sure.

You first, and then my last post on this topic next week.


Robert said...

Thanks for the reminder to look at ourselves, Frank. I was thinking of that this morning when I was doing the Bible lesson with my boys. Jesus told the disciples one of them was going to betray them...this is one of the rare instances before His death/resurrection where they responded correctly...they all asked if it was one of them. Of course Judas went along with the rest of them so as not to stand out, but Jesus hit him square between the eyes and said that he said it himself. May we follow the example of the disciples here and take up self-examination instead of trying to just find or manufacture the Judas in the crowd.

Jacob Phillips said...

Tasty, tasty post. Very helpful.

"You are not waiting for the other guy's salvation and then sanctification...." was a particularly convicting section.

Anonymous said...

Frank you are exposing my life as a believer who doesn't always believe and certainly doesn't always act like he believes.

It's good for me.


Michael said...

I seem to remember another man expressing this in song in 1988. Something about looking in a mirror and changing one's ways.

DJP said...


Michael said...

Yes, "Shamon" was my TM mantra. Paid $350 for it in 1979. Thought it was supposed to be a secret.

Frank Turk said...

Michael Jackson and MLK understand racism better than Al Sharpton?

Wow. That's crazy.

Michael Coughlin said...

Amen. Good post/series.

Andrea said...

This is robustly convicting, but in another way also encouraging to me as a mother. This is because of my least favorite and most challenging of parental duties. Resolving disputes and arguments that my children can not or will not solve themselves is really hard and frustrating for me, but in light of the biblical teaching addressed here it is a crucial part of my children's instruction in the gospel.

Whenever my boys come to me in conflict, which still happens way too often, with all the tattling and self-justification and vilification and pleas for vindication, I make them each separately think about what they themselves did wrong in the conflict. And then to apologize to God, and to me, and to one another before they start confessing their brother's sins.

It sometimes takes far longer than I really want to spend, and often I wonder if it's really sinking in. But in general, they are more ready to confess their own faults and quicker to accept an apology than most adults that I know.

I hope that they can carry that same process into these more complex social issues as they grow.

The really humbling thing is how often I have the opportunity to model that self-examination process. It can be downright painful in the middle of a rant when I am sure that I am right, to check myself and humbly apologize. Usually the confession is for how I have expressed myself with undue vehemence, as if a loud voice or sarcasm made me right when a calm but firm assertion of the facts or of my authority as parent would do as well and honor God more.

And that's with my own children, who I love fiercely enough to die for. How much effort does it require to look past disagreements and recognize my own contributions to disharmony with people outside my family circle?

Too much. Way too much.

Andrea said...

The hard part from here is to see how this plays in when I don't have a dog in the fight, so to speak. I don't want to grab a dog by the ears, but if it is a complex social issue I have to at least consider where my own responsibility might lie. In this case, that is difficult.

I am not a member of law enforcement. Nor am I part of the government which must investigate and mete out what passes for justice in a fallen world. I am not even part of an oppressed minority, unless you count women as such, and I don't. Not the way I used to before I realized that I was my own worst enemy.

The Bible says to weep with those who weep, and I suppose that I do that, but perhaps from too great a distance to do much good, or even to know what good I could do.

I have deep sympathy for the community that has lost one of their own, and that struggles with fear and mistrust of authority figures who should be protecting them.

I can also imagine what a horror it must be to be responsible for the death of another human being, when your job is to serve and protect. While there may be occasions when even lethal force may be necessary to protect the public good, the compassion that God hardwired into us requires that we take such actions very seriously.

Were I in such a position, I imagine that I would be riddled with self-doubt, wondering if anything I could have done differently would have averted or minimized the tragedy. And even if I were absolutely confident that every choice I made was the best I could have done, reconciling myself to the fact of it, of being the reason that another human being's family would never see him alive again, would be painful. Nothing short of Jesus' blood could cover it.

So then what do I do? Now that I am really thinking about it, a few ideas that seem scripturally sound present themselves. Pray, of course. Express my sorrow that the world is so sunk in the curse of sin that things like this can happen. Offer whatever comfort or assistance I can to those who suffer as a result of involvement in such an event, even vicariously.

I'd love best of all to offer the gospel to those who suffer so, even as I hold it out as my own best, only hope.

If that last is your main point for this series, and especially if you have some practical suggestions about how to do it in this context, I am eagerly awaiting the next post. Much as I have been avidly following your Add Water series over at R21. So thankful to God to have access to your biblically sound, well-reasoned, well-articulated ideas again after the long hiatus.

Michael said...

Andrea's second comment really touched me.

Also, even NFL players are self-reflecting:


Morris Brooks said...

Amen, and amen, again. That is why when we pray your will be done, it needs to begin with us.

Kent McDonald said...

Thank you Frank for once again rightly dividing the Word. As one who is fallen and graciously redeemed, I struggle with my own shortcomings daily. I have learned the hard way that I am my own worst enemy. I cannot say "The Devil made me do it" because I have exhibited to all around me that I AM capable of sinning without being nudged by Satan. Thanks for the reminder. We can never be reminded enough. Plank seen. Mote not my business.