WDJD: What does Jesus do?
Recently I have been thinking about what the meaning of being saved by Christ is. What is the meaning of being made right before God if my sins still hurt those around me?
What kind of power does God have to save us? What kind of power does God have to make us righteous? Even if we really really want it – doesn’t the decision to do and be good ultimately lie with us? Then, what does Christ do for us? Why do Christians still do bad things? Is Christ just a ‘model’ or ‘inspiration’ to do good? What does Jesus do?
My current suspicion is that people don’t want to follow Christianity because it doesn’t appear to make you a better person. Perhaps if Christians would actually stop sinning, it wouldn’t seem so ridiculous to be a Christian. I know I want to – because although I know that God can forgive me my sins through Jesus, I still sin against other people and myself all the time. Sin hurts, and that’s why it’s sin. But is it even possible to stop?
But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. – Romans 8:10-11
According to St. Paul, it would seem that the Spirit is certainly capable of inspiring good works in us. It remains our responsibility to accept its promptings and respond accordingly, but we are inevitably bound to fail to some degree. Only God is Holy, even Jesus said it: “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.” (Matt. 19:15, KJV)
That just leaves the question of whether Christianity really makes you a better person. And really, I think that’s up to two things.
1) Individual Commitment
You can say and pretend all the things that might make you ‘a Christian’, but if you don’t actually challenge yourself to act out your faith – meaning, become a more loving person, as Jesus tells you to – there’s no space for God to work. There’s no awareness of sin, there’s no room for redemption, and there’s no room for righteousness. Study, prayer, and striving – creating your own faith life not tied to social categories is the only way to be more than ‘a Christian’.
2) A Community
Christianity should provide communities where people create these faith lives. That means a Church that values its members’ faith lives more than it values their ties to the Church. A Church that makes you feel like you only need to be a part of their community and it will all be OK is not a good Church. It might have the pretense of challenging you – but if it fails to make real to you how to act out the faith and put you in touch with the transforming power of the Spirit, then it’s not doing its job. The community itself should be living its message, so that you can live it too.
What does Jesus do, then?
If you really take Jesus seriously, Jesus can make you a better person. Accepting his sacrifice – I mean, really connecting with it, which doesn’t happen by sheer effort but by a certain coming together of circumstances that can only be called grace – can be powerful motivator for living his message.
His message is love. But in order to know how to love, we need to listen to people. And if you love Jesus, but not people, you’re doing it wrong. I think if you truly love Jesus, he will remind you to love people too.
If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. – Matt. 5:23-24
Trusting too much in the Church is a problem. Worship God; but if you realise that something’s not right with other people, stop worshiping God and go and sort it out. Then worship God again. Why does Jesus need to tell us this? Because he knows that it’s far too tempting simply to stay in your comfortable relationship with God than to do what he says and go and love someone else. Jesus is so eminently lovable because he loves us absolutely and yet simply by loving him we are asked to go and please love someone else.
So everything comes back to Jesus. He is at the centre (of Christianity, of Christians’ hearts, of Christian action), but while he’s there, he’s constantly evading being pinned down because he empties himself into you. Jesus is nothing; Jesus is everything. Jesus powerful; Jesus is powerless. Jesus is king; Jesus is nobody.
What does Jesus do? He nothing. He does everything. It’s all up to us. It’s all down to him.
Does that make any sense?