Protestant's Safari V: "Just Give Them Jesus?"
One of my sisters in Christ had a critique for me the other day pertinent to this Blog: "why don’t you just give them Jesus?" she asked.
(This theme rings a memory of Anne Graham Lotz screeching the same question before an assemly of faithful Anglican-African clergy at the Pittsburg Anglican Communion Network gathering a few months ago- before an audience who are being persecuted for their insistance on worshipping Jesus within a faithful Tradition, rather than re-inventing Him, her reception was rather cool)
Let us take this beautiful sentiment apart from its questionable roots in Schliermacher and the 20th century Bultmanian theologies that despaired of the veracity of authority in either Scripture or the Tradition. "Just Jesus-" but Amen! I say. We have no part in anything real and good without Him; contemporary theologians suggest that He mediates us to our very selves. "Just Jesus" is what Augustine crashed into, in a headlong burst of unencumbered love, over and over again- "Him whom in all these things we love." He is the scarlett thread running through millenia, the telos of our universe, the proper object of our worship. He is my Savior.
"Just Jesus"- of course I would love to "just attain” Jesus- apart from illusory sentimentality, apart from my sin, apart from the weariness and fear that prevents me from really running with the dangerous, life-threatening, joyous, cosmic, Lion of Judah... so you can see what a relief it is, why I persist in this journey, in that Jesus gives Himself to me. I so love Him for it.
But the subtext of the "Just Jesus" seems to me to have seeds of its own turning from Jesus within it. It seems to mean "Just Jesus," qua Jesus without the apparent "trappings" of our forbears, whom He taught and authorized, and without the strictures of His words and example. It seems to mean "Just Jesus" as though He were "mine" to possess personally, unhistorically, and exclusively in an egotistical embrace, rather than as a called participant in the waiting Body of which He is the self-betrothed Bridegroom- this consummation belongs to millions, of which I am only one. I stand WITHIN His Bride, and there receive the tender love which Christ has for me within her- but He is a faithful Bridegroom, and does not select another from the single, specific, collective One for whom He waits. There is no other stream- not the stream that is me, alone in my "personal relationship," nor is that relationship one of my own making. From Creation to Pentecost, the Father has formed communities for His Son. It has never been good for humanity to be alone before Him.
And what of this Jesus? If I take a look at the Jesus of the Scriptures, I find a Jesus who is always giving Himself, and above and beyond, all sorts of things alongside, to meet our need to receive Him. As with the Incarnation itself, His gifts are our accommodation. The Scriptures are explicit: “I give to you”... “here it is”... “take it from me”... Like an engaging date, He comes with presents; like a compassionate parent, He comes with the assistance of the training wheels, the baby food, the nurturing which gratuitously enable the infant to grow into a friend: His peace, a social teaching, a Cross, a Mother, an attending Spirit, a Pastor, a Meal, a Rite of initiation. The Jesus we've got is the Lord with provisional accoutrement and a Kingdom. We don’t find another Jesus in the Scripture.
I, for one, want Him as He has shown Himself to be, with all His attendant benefits. Jesus Himself does not give “Just Jesus" to us – having given Himself fully to us, He also gives all of His good things, wherewith we may give ourselves (more and more) to Him.