Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Jesus Christ: Monarch Or Mascot?

I have often talked about the domesticated Jesus that we put up on the shelf and take down only when convenient. This is a tendency we all have since it marks the religious component of the culture in which we live. In an article I recently read, “Beyond Loving The World: Serving The Son For His Surpassing Glory,” David Bryant (founder of Concerts Of Prayer, International), speaks of this same tendency in a sub-section he titled, “World Christians: Serving A Monarch, Not A Mascot.” It is so good I will quote it at length.

In so many of our churches, I fear, Jesus is regularly deployed as our mascot, as if our life struggles were something like a football game. Once a week on Sunday, Jesus is presented as if He were something like a mascot, trotted out to the field to cheer us up, to give us new vigor and vision, to reassure us that we are “somebodies.” We invite Him to reinforce us for the great things we want to do for God. He rebuilds our confidence. He gives us reasons to cheer. He confirms for us over and over that all must be well. We’re so proud of Him! We’re so happy to be identified with His name. Enthusiasm for Him energizes us—for a while.

But then, for the rest of the week, He is pretty much relegated to the sidelines. For all practical purposes, we are the ones who call the shots. We implement the plays, scramble for first downs and improvise in a pinch. Even if we do it in His name, we do it with little reliance on His person. There’s scant evidence that we think of ourselves as somehow utterly incapable of doing anything of eternal consequence apart from Him.

As contradictory as it may seem, many of us have redefined Jesus into someone we can both admire and ignore at the same time! To be our mascot, we’ve redesigned Him to be reasonably convenient—someone praiseworthy, to be sure, but overall kept in reserve, useful, “on call” as required. We’ve come to Him as far as we need Him, and no further.

If we insist on Jesus coming along with us as a helper in our games and excellent adventures, we will inevitably tame Him as our mascot. World Christians are just as likely as anyone to appeal to Jesus as a helper. But they rouse themselves fully awake to Christ, to be engaged in His greater story.

Notice who is not in charge in this way of thinking (Jesus) and who is in charge (us). This is not what it looks like to live as part of the kingdom of God that has come to us in Jesus Christ. This is not what it looks like to submit to King Jesus! How do we change this?  Meditating on the following two Bible passages will be a good start.

The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours. The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth. He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head. (Psalm 110, the most frequently quoted Old Testament passage in the New Testament and an amazing portrait of the coming Christ)

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:20-28)

As these passages remind us, Jesus is not our mascot or a domesticated helper to be placed on a shelf and taken off when convenient. He is, instead, our Monarch, our King. May it be so!