Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A Misunderstanding.

Peter at Pentecost, the Gospel of John, and the Book of Acts all make the same mistake.
Or was the mistake made by subsequent generations?

They all say that believing that Jesus is the Messiah is the most important component of faith.

Later generations made Jesus the Christ (Greek for Messiah) and developed a theology based on the figure of Christ as savior, redeemer, and sacrificial atonement for sin.

But God says, ""Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?  Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay you vows to the Most High.'"  Psalm 50:13,14 (NRSV)

"With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with tens of thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"  Micah 6:6-8 (NRSV)

It is clear from these passages that what God requires of us is not ritual sacrifices or empty belief, what God requires is a change in the way we live, to become more just, more honest, more compassionate and merciful.

Jesus said, "'Why do you call me "Lord, Lord" and do not what I tell you?'"  Luke 6:46 (NRSV)

Believing that Jesus is the Messiah is saying "Lord, Lord" and that is not enough.
We must do what Jesus tells us to do.
That means listening to his teachings.

There is no point in believing that Jesus is the Christ - some magical figure who will save you from damnation.

Salvation consists of listening to his words and acting upon them.

This means changing the way we live in the world so that we become more just, more honest, more compassionate and merciful.

And this would change the world.

The point of believing that Jesus is the Messiah (the Christ) is that you will listen to what he teaches.

At the transfiguration God says, "'This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him.'" Mark 9:7b (NRSV)
He does not say believe in him.
He says to listen to him.
Not some speculative theology based on the power of the Christ.

The Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, these are teachings about how we should live in the world.
And if we lived by these teachings we would establish the kingdom of God on earth.

And this does not mean that we earn salvation by good works.
We are not in the business of gaining enough points to avoid some threatened damnation.
Damnation does not exist.
The point of salvation, redemption, atonement etc. is not to avoid punishment.
God does not punish us.
The point is to change the way we live n the world, to make life better for those who are suffering:
the poor, the marginalized, the disabled, the refugee.

To be agents of love in the world.

(Scripture quotations (marked NRSV) are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.)

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