Lampmeister commented on my last post:
Ok, but there is no evidence to suggest that there were animals, wise men, a stable or that Jesus had "the lowest birth story". Surely the Christian message is that Christ lived and died for *all*?
This ties into some thinking I was doing this morning whilst walking through the mist to the post office and back (bit late this year with our christmas cards).
Lampmeister, if you're reading this, I hope you don't mind if I answer your question indirectly.
If we look at the life and words of Christ, it is fairly clear that he behaved differently with different people. With some he was angry. With some gentle. With some exasperated. All fine so far.
But if we look carefully, it was the people like us - ie generally middle class reasonably intelligent, sofa-sitting, respectable church attenders - that he was harshest with. The people he spent most time with were people we spend little time with - the sick, the poor, the ignored, the ignorant, the ones with doubts. To those he offered healing, words of hope.
To people like us, the ones who know the theology, he offered the confusing story, the extra mile and the impossible challenge.
The poor, he said, were to be put first, to be lifted up. The rich, he said, were to be put last, put down. To those who knew nothing, he said they understood about the kingdom of heaven. To those who had ticked all the right boxes, he said knew nothing.
Any person of any personal disaster is both a victim of circumstance and bad choices. To a greater or lesser extent, we are all partly responsible for the mess we are in. To a greater or lesser extent, the mess we are in was caused by the environment around us. Nobody is totally to blame outwith of their environment. No environment can be blamed entirely for the mess we are in.
But if we look to the situation of the poor in our world, they have fewer choices and few ways to make their lives better. If we look at the problems of the middle chattering classes, problems are overwhelmingly self-inflicted.
So what is the gospel story for the poor? That you are not worthless, that you are not forgotten, that your Father in heaven cares about you and that he has prepared a place of good things which you missed out in this life. That you can receive supernatural assistance to climb out of your circumstance and change the world.
So in contrast, what is the gospel story for the middle classes? That our lives, our church and our world are messed up, and we are largely responsible. That we are not as important as we think we are. That our Father in heaven has prepared good things which we don't deserve because we have taken more than our fair share in this life - but to receive those things, we must make ourselves poor. That we can receive supernatural assistance to break down the walls of wealth we have built around us, to go out and change the world.
Hear me clearly: this is not to say that our middle class problems don't exist, nor that God does not care about them or us. But for most people, the reality is that they pale into insignificance compared to the lot suffered by the poor around us.
So no, the message is not just that "that Christ lived and died for *all*?". For us, the middle classes, God offers us both love and discipline, and as in the past we have been very anxious to discipline others according to our own arbitrary measures of holiness, we can expect also to be judged as harshly for the messes we have created. If we believe in the gospel, we cannot help but be changed to become more like the poor.
This is all easily seen in the gospels. So we then have to ask ourselves which is more consistent: the Jesus who fits our narrow middle class expectations, or the Jesus who was born into the kind of grinding poverty that a majority of the world experience.
Labels: gospel, poor, rich