In My Best Oprah

Implications are important things. An implication is a thing that is true because another thing is true. For example, a dual implication of my intemperate use of dad humor would be frequent hoots from my kids and weary looks/polite laughs from my friends. You get the idea. Implications are important things.

Here's one that is probably under-appreciated: If Christianity is true, there are parts of yourself that you consider positively essential that God would like to crucify. God is, to put it another way, casually sidling closer to some of your most cherished personality traits, cultural values, and moral intuitions with a prison shank in hand and a lethal look on his face.

That one got away from me. We should probably just move on.

Maybe an example will elucidate my meaning. Consider a self-styled "Progressive." He believes his support of transgenderism and subsequent use of  whatever pronoun a person chooses for him or herself a praiseworthy aspect of his character. He reposts all the right memes and hate-comments on all the wrong ones. He would consider my words here (a classically biblical approach to gender and human sexuality written by a cisgender, Christian, white male) to be a perfect illustration of the ignorance of privilege at its redneck worst.

What I'm saying is that Jesus would look at what he considers a very loving perspective with Temple-clearing anger. I think Jesus would say that such a man hates the people he claims to love. It is not love which cheers from the sidelines while an image-bearer of the Living God commits suicide, however slowly the death occurs and no matter how loudly The Huffington Post may cheer.

This is, in fact, the very thing lamented by righteous Job when he said, "They make night into day: ‘The light,’ they say, ‘is near to the darkness.’" And when Job's words re-form in Isaiah's mouth, the potency is turned up a notch: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" It is not a virtue to look at what God has said eternally destroys and call it a magnificent good.

So back to my original point. I used what is probably a personally convenient example to illustrate, one not poisoned with my particular and peculiar arrogances. But what if I looked less in the cultural milieu and more in the mirror? What if the cherished sin at hand is not same-sex sexual activity, but thinking self-important thoughts while considering some theological pondering? What if it's the vainglory of the preacher, angling for another complimentary remark concerning his latest homiletical offering?

Ah, there we are. The pain of introspection.

These, too, must die. These, too, need the nails and thorns and spear to pierce and exsanguinate. There is not a person on this earth who doesn't need the crucifying and resurrecting work of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And that means (back to those implications) that all of us have cherished parts that need executing. For time's sake, let's call those parts "ourselves." What I'm saying is that a Gospel that demands no death can offer no life. Beware such a Gospel. Abominate such a Gospel. Flee such a Gospel like Frodo from Tolkien's Balrog. 

@@A Gospel that demands no death can offer no life... Abominate such a Gospel.@@

The real, authentic, and apostolic Gospel demands that all of your cherished parts die with Christ. This means that when I say to someone, "Repent of your sin and believe in the Son!" what I'm really saying is, "Join me in dying to all of the things I thought were so good and right and beautiful and witty and praiseworthy and admirable about myself! Join me in handing over the record of my debts—and the flesh which accrued them—to the Father, that he might hold them up to the hands of his Son and drive a nail through both."

That's how the Gospel is like those giveaway editions of Oprah. Jesus walks onstage and says, "You get crucified! You get crucified! Everyone gets crucified!" And to your ear, maybe you'd prefer the original giveaway, with the iPods and trips to Bermuda, over the Gospel version. Not so fast. First ask, "Why does Jesus call sinners to the cross?" The answer is only ever resurrection. He kills to raise. He casts the seed to the ground to die that it might push through the soil as something better. He never wounds but to heal. He never confronts but to restore. He never takes but to give—good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over! So we need neither fear the cross nor trust the flesh.