LifeWalk

______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

Jesus Wants To Save Christians January 15, 2011


By the end of the introduction I was hooked. Rob Bell remains one of the most insightful, intelligent, interesting, thought-provoking writers I’ve ever read. For this outing, he teams up with Don Golden.

“Jesus Wants To Save Christians” is rich, and I mean rich in historical and cultural context of the Biblical narrative.  I know that personally, once I put down the Bible as a rule book, and picked it back up as the narrative of God and man, it all started making more sense than ever.  This book continues my education in that vein.

This book starts off with the realization that we are “east of Eden.” Rob shows how the Bible repeatedly uses “east” for special emphasis. He speaks of how “something about how we relate to each other has been lost. Something is not right with the world.”

The Introduction talks about where we are as a people, as a nation, and as a world. He compares our current state of affairs with that of Jesus’ day:
“The Roman Empire, which put Jesus on an execution stake, insisted that it was bringing peace to the world through its massive military might. Emperor Caesar, who ruled the Roman Empire, was considered the “Son of God,” the “Prince of Peace,” and one of his propaganda slogans was “peace through victory.”
“A Christian should get very nervous when the flag and the Bible start holding hands. This is not a romance we want to encourage.”

Chapter One is about Moses. It’s about Egypt, and the exodus. It’s about the “new Egypt” that God’s people, via religion, eventually created. “Egypt shows us how easily human nature bends toward using power to preserve privilege at the expense of the weak.”
We see Rob’s take on what it means that we are all called to be priests. We are called to be a holy nation “shaped not by greed, violence, and abusive power but by compassion, justice, and care for one’s neighbor.
We then look at the Ten Commandments, not as “strict rules given by a fire-breathing God to keep people in line,” but in their original context. In this light “the commandments take on all sorts of new meanings.” This is the most relevant, meaningful look at the often misused and misunderstood commandments given to Moses. It’s really amazing.
There’s a history lesson on Solomon like none I’ve ever thought of.  After the exodus, after God sets free the slaves, “Solomon is building a temple for the God who sets slaves free…
using slaves.
This is a major moment in the Bible. In just a few generations, the oppressed have become the oppressors.” “Solomon is using his massive resources and wealth to build military bases to protect his…
massive resources and wealth.”
So much for “looking out for the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner.”
Chapter one also talks about the prophets God sent, the reaction to them, and exile in Babylon.

Chapter Two continues to discuss the Egypt/deliverance/Babylon themes. Still, “God always hears the cry of the oppressed.” We begin to see why the first exodus, and the first “marriage covenant” with God didn’t work out. “There’s an Egypt that we’re all born into, and that’s what we really need an exodus from.” This chapter takes us to the end of the Hebrew scriptures, also called the Old Testament. We see we need a new Moses, a new covenant, and a new exodus. We have all these unfulfilled prophesies, all these “suspended promises.” This new “way” will be much different. And instead of being for a select ethnic group, it will be for all mankind.

As Chapter Three opens, we are in early first century Israel.  Solomon was the son of David.  Now we have a new Son of David.  We begin to see the connections between Solomon and Jesus.  We see the weight and meaning of “Son of David” to this first century audience.  “A new son of David, leading the people into remarriage with God.”  “Jesus speaks of a new kingdom as he shows what it’s like to be human in this new reality.”
We look at the expectation of Jesus’ followers,  and the shock when it all “fell apart.”  There a discussion of the “myth of redemptive violence,” and the propensity we humans have for bloodshed.  Of course, we also see that the death of Jesus was the beginning of new hope.

Chapter Four looks at, among other things, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.  Again, we get historical context that brings a new and deeper appreciation for what’s happening here.  We also see this encounter in light of Jesus’ stating that the good news should be shared “to the ends of the earth.”  There are more parallels between Moses and Jesus.  We look at Luke’s account of the day of Pentecost, when three-thousand are saved.  That’s the same number that Moses had slaughtered for the “golden calf” incident.
We also see, again, the inclusiveness of the gospel, and of Paul himself.

Chapter Five has an interesting title:
Swollen-Bellied Black Babies, Soccer Moms On Prozac, and the Mark of the Beast.”
This is an extremely important chapter that should be read by every one who identifies as a lover of Christ.
It should be required reading for “American Christians.”

First, there’s some frightening information about “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”  Man.  What a false bill of goods we were sold on that one!  We dropped bombs to kill Saddam Hussein.  We missed.  Lots of civilians killed and injured.  No “bad buys.”
I’ve had other readings where I learned that Bush wanted a war long before the “war on terror.”  The whole thing was really about control.  And oil.  Finally, he was handed an excuse.  (See “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.”)
Anyway…
This chapter is about empire.  Egyptian empire.  Babylonian empire.  Roman empire.  American empire.  We’re reminded that blessings are not to be horded.  Blessings are to be used to bless others.  The consequences of forgetting the poor, the needy and the oppressed are both devastating and obvious.

This chapter also has great information on the book of Revelation, and the “mark of the beast.”
Again, we get relevant historical and cultural context, instead of all the twisted misuse and misapplications I’ve heard most of my life.
“Revelation is a bold, courageous, politically subversive attack on corrosive empire and its power to oppress people.”

Chapter Six is about lamb’s blood.  “In the first exodus, the lamb’s blood was place on the doorposts of the house” for those who lived there.  In the second exodus, the Lamb’s blood was placed “on the doorposts of the universe.”  This time “Jesus is saving everyone and everything.  Jesus is leading all of creation out of the Egypt of violence, sin, and death.
We also look at how Paul took offerings “for the poor.”  Not to grease the wheels of institutional religion.  The dividing walls of our differences have been broken down to usher in the “new humanity.”  One where access to God isn’t restricted to a religion, but is opened up, through Christ, to all people.  We get some good ideas about Paul’s “all things to all men” statements; especially, what’s noticeably absent in that passage.

Epilogue
The epilogue brings it all together and shows how our narrow definition of “being saved” has shortchanged Christians, and the rest of the world as well.   “God is looking for a body, a people to incarnate the divine.  That always involves hearing the cry of the poor and the oppressed and then acting on their behalf.”


Again, this is an amazing book.  Far too long we’ve seen salvation as an “afterlife” issue.  Salvation is here.  Salvation is now.  There is so very much from which Jesus wants to save Christians.  Religion.  Indifference.  Elitism.  Privilege.  Neglect of the poor and needy.  Oppressing others, especially in the name of God.
Do yourself, and the world a favor.  Read this book.

– df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

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QUOTES:
The “whole world,” “all nations,” “all people,” “all things” are the biggest, widest, deepest, most inclusive terms the human mind can fathom.  And they are on the lips of Jesus, who is describing himself.

He’s bringing liberation for everybody everywhere and ultimately for everything everywhere for all time.

A Christian should get very nervous when the flag and the Bible start holding hands. This is not a romance we want to encourage.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Exile is when you fail to convert your blessings into blessings for others.

The first exodus was just a hint of the redemption God has in mind for all humanity.

[Jesus started] A movement bigger than any one nation, bigger than any one ethnic group, bigger than any one religion.

The central promise to the father of their faith, Abraham, was that God would bless his people so that they would bless the world.  It’s always about wealth, health, possessions, and influence being used to bless others.

Jesus’ death [was] an end to a whole system of “commands and regulations.”

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

If anything, the biblical story teaches us that no nation is entitled to global dominance, no matter how powerful their national myths may be.

Jesus speaks of a new kingdom as he shows what it’s like to be human in this new reality.

What do you do when your religion isn’t big enough for God?

[Religious legalism] makes Paul furious.  In one letter, his rant reaches such a pitch that he says he wishes “they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!”

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

It’s a beautiful thing to learn from the journey of others.

If a sermon can be resolved in the time it took to deliver it, then it missed something central to what a sermon even is.

A church is not a center for religious good and services.

A church exists for the benefit of nonmembers.  This blessing extends even to our enemies.

Buy the book. Click HERE.


 

 
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