From the editor: November 7, 2014
Helping Jesus to Relate
Everyone wants to do public relations for Jesus. Poor simple preacher, even if the Son of God, who needed assistance from savvy pitchmen and apostles to get his message across and even do the right things—or so they thought.
Peter may ask, "What would Jesus do?" And should Jesus answer, "Go up to Jerusalem to be mocked, spit upon, and crucified, and rise again," Peter rebukes him. When John and James see Jesus doing nothing about the heretical Samaritans, they urge him to provide them with fire and brimstone. When Jesus says, "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life," his disciple retort, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" Jesus refuses sound PR advice to walk back his words with, "I misspoke."
That was then. This is now. And nothing's changed. One of the latest attempts by a follower of Jesus to revise things to meet expectations and cultural tastes comes from an Orthodox priest, who wishes to revisit the church's stand on homosexual relations. It's all very smooth and carefully so. What I wish to highlight is his opening statement:
"Proclaiming the never changing Gospel who is Jesus Christ in an ever-changing culture demands that we personally and corporately as the Church enter more deeply into the reality of the inexhaustible mystery of Christ the living and eternal Word of God."
This is well and good, but his approach ends up making this sleight-of-hand. He slips in "ever-changing culture" but never raises the question of discernment, as if all cultural change is benign and requires no judgment. But the change is precisely the issue. Is the change a good change or a bad change? Is it a healthy expression of culture or an unhealthy decay of culture? If man is fallen, he tends toward anti-culture in the sense that he seeks to break the bonds of divine truth and embraces sin and decadent practices.
The never-changing Gospel will both build up and tear down, depending on what it encounters. It does so spiritually in the hearts of men through the first word of the Gospel as spoken by Jesus: "Repent!" That is never a welcome word, for we cleave to our personal sins, but unless the Son of Man is allowed to come with a sword, as he said he was doing, to cleave us from our sins, we will only follow pale imitations of "the inexhaustible mystery of Christ the living and eternal Word of God," imitations made in our own image and according to our own tastes and inclinations. Peter felt the edge of the Lord's sword with the words, "Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus said that fiercely because of his love—for you, for me, for Peter, and for those who hate us for not bending with the (anti-) cultural winds. Stay strong.
Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,
—James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James