Was visited yesterday by a ghost of disagreements past.
It was a friendly ghost. Just not one named Casper.
Anyway, I was asked to define what a “man-centered gospel” is. Oh yes, that wondrous label issued in response to emphasizing the “one another” dimension of the good news of Jesus. What a natural tendency it is for us rather than thinking to apply labels to other’s foreheads so that further thinking is not required and we come out smelling like God dandified roses. Glad I don’t have issues with that anymore. That weren’t me.
Anyway, confronted by the phrase again, it struck me what an odd label this is.
The good news that Christians strive to live and preach is all about the God who became man and “moved into the neighborhood.” It’s about the God who “so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” – although my friend claims “world” doesn’t mean “world” but only a select group in the world of which he happens to be a member. It’s about a God who became like us in every way so that he could be merciful and compassionate in all his dealings with humanity. It’s about the Mediator between God and humanity who is himself the ultimate Human.
Considering all that, my response was and is, the good news is totally God-centered and utterly human- oriented, because God is utterly human-oriented. He knows our frame. He knows the number of our hairs. He knows our rising up and our sitting down. He knows every word on our tongue inside and out. (And if any of you start singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” I will find you, and I will smack the back of your head.)
God is utterly fascinated with us, it would seem. He is smitten with his children, even when we totally drive him up the wall and make him want to pull out all the white hairs on his chinny chin chin. Which is why, I suppose, he gets so bent out of joint whenever we treat each other like garbage – especially when it is supposedly on his behalf.
In fact, one of Jesus’ stories, just for emphasis, pictures the entire judgment scene which is the stuff of so many religious fantasies of how all the evil people out there finally get theirs – and turns it on its head, making the callous religious types who ignored the least (most of “the least” being, with wonderful irony, those “evil people out there”) the ultimate butt of divine judgment. The sole criteria of this judgment scene? How you have treated the “least of these.”
And then John chimes in with his own strong statement that if we say we love God whom we have not seen and hate the bloke next to us whom we have seen, we are big fat freaking liars playing pious religious games with theological tiddlywinks. Okay, that’s not exactly what John said, but he was thinking it. Then he caps it off: he that loves God must love the repulsive, disagreable bloke next to him.
This also explains the 110 uses in 94 separate verses of that wonderful reflexive Greek pronoun ἀλλήλων (ah-lay-loan) in the New Testament; translation: one another. Love one another. Build one another up. Encourage one another. Comfort one another. Et al.
Totally God-centered, and utterly human-oriented as a result.
The two cannot be divorced. To so divorce the two as we withdraw into our religious compounds and proceed to damn our neighbors in word or deed, is to hang the proverbial millstone around our neck and invite the ultimate toss into the deep.
We’d be better off just burning our Bibles and be done with it.