All of us want to be able to get along with one another, but living together, whether it is eight hours together with fellow workers at work, or getting along with family members at home, inevitably runs into tensions at some point or another. Someone has habits that get on your nerves. Somebody else always seems to be grumpy. Someone else is overbearing. Perhaps at work we can manage, because after eight hours we can escape the situation. But in the home sometimes our differences break out into arguments that no one can win and that leave a strain in our relationship.
The good news is that someone already bore all the consequences of your and my anger, your and my strife, your and my bitterness, those hasty words we shouldn’t have spoken, and the bitter thoughts behind that precipitated the words. They all have been dealt with. The seething, restless nature inside that we can no longer manage has already been put right.
There is a being beyond space, beyond the bounds of our 13 or 14 billion light years away edge of the universe who visited this planet as a human baby on what we know as Christmas. He came for the precise purpose of demonstrating in time what his Father has done in eternity, bearing the self-centered, proud, devious evil of every one of our hearts, bearing it away in his own death. He bore in himself all our proud thoughts, all the vengeful proving we are right, all our impatient criticism of others, all our proud insistence on our own way, all the disquiet in our hearts.
Now, before you write me off, before you protest that this is “church stuff” where there is more hypocrisy than in our work places, let me remind you that this is history. Contrary to what many “educated” people assume, one letter which was written to believers in Rome less than 30 years after Jesus’ death explains very clearly what Jesus’ death was about. Now, 30 years is not enough time for a legend to develop, because there were thousands of people who were in Jerusalem when Jesus died and who were still alive and could corroborate or deny the truth of what was written 30 years later. There were also plenty of people who opposed Paul and what he wrote, but we have no one protesting that this was all made up.
In fact, Paul himself originally was among those who opposed this “heretical cult,” the belief of those who claimed that Jesus rose from the dead and that he changed their lives. It was while he was on the way to the city of Damascus, in order to arrest and take back to Jerusalem any who were in Damascus who believed in this Jesus, that he had an encounter that completely changed his life. By his own account he had an encounter there with the living, risen Jesus.
His letter to Roman believers is important not only because it was one of the earliest written records we have explaining what Jesus came to do, but because it sets out so plainly how complete was the change in the human situation that took place in time about 29 AD when Jesus died and was testified to have come back alive and met by many of those who knew and loved him. The massive change was that we each, in a super spatial, super temporal way, were there with him and in him in both his death and resurrection. There he put an end to the old self and there in him took place the recreation of a new being that is able to live with his new life inside us.(1) In fact every person who ever lived on this planet was included.
So if that has taken place, why do we find it so difficult to deal with the most basic snubs? Why do we get so irritated at our partner’s bad habits? Why do we immediately respond to criticism with self defense?
Well, Jesus’ Father has determined to let us choose whether we want his Son’s life or our own. He, before time, saw that if he wanted people who would love him he must make them with the choice to not love him, the ability to reject him. And we see the result. As the line in the chorale, “The Messiah,” goes, “All we like sheep, have gone astray. We have turned every one to his own way.”
“So,” you ask, “where do we go from here?”
Hopefully we can speak to this in another article, but one place to start is to ask yourself if you would be willing to have the life of God’s Son live in you. Think about that.
(1) Romans 6:1-4, Galatians 2:20