Saturday, August 12, 2006

Christ Was Not A Christian.

How many times have we Christians been told that we are to be "Christlike"? We've heard so many people ask "what would Jesus do?"--WWJD. So much so that it has lost any real meaning.

Garry Willis tackles the question of whether or not we can truly aspire to do what Jesus did in an article at After discussing some of Jesus behavior and attitudes, like remaining in the temple when his parents left town, changing water into wine, casting out devils, he says that these...
... were acts meant to show that he is not just like us, that he has higher rights and powers, that he has an authority as arbitrary as God's in the Book of Job. He is a divine mystery walking among men. The only way we can directly imitate him is to act as if we were gods ourselves--yet that is the very thing he forbids.
And then he challenges us with these paragraphs, concluding with a reference to how the disciples would never have asked WWJD they were too busy trying to figure out the puzzle that was Jesus.
Christians cannot really be "Christlike." As Chesterton said, "A great man knows he is not God, and the greater he is the better he knows it." The thing we have to realize is that Christ, whoever or whatever he was, was certainly not a Christian. Romano Guardini put it this way in The Humanity of Christ:

If Jesus is a mere man, then he must be measured by the message which he brought to men. He must himself do what he expects of others; he must himself think according to the way he demanded that men think. He must himself be a Christian. Very well, then; the more he is like that, the less he will speak, act, or think as he did; and the more he will be appalled by the blasphemy of the way he did behave. If Jesus is mere man as we are, even though a very profound one, very devout, very pure--no, let us put it another way: the measure of his depth, devotion, purity, reverence, will be the measure in which it will be impossible for him to say what he says... . The following clear-cut alternative emerges: either he is not just evil, for that would not adequately describe the case -- either he is deranged, as Nietzsche became in Turin in 1888, or he is quite different, deeply and essentially different, from what we are.

To read the gospels in the spirit with which they were written, it is not enough to ask what Jesus did or said. We must ask what Jesus meant by his strange deeds and words. He intended to reveal the Father to us, and to show that he is the only-begotten Son of that Father. What he signified is always more challenging than we expect, more outrageous, more egregious. That is why the Catholic novelist Francois Mauriac calls him "of all the great characters history places before us, the least logical." Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor knew this when he reproached Christ for puzzling men by being "exceptional, vague, and enigmatic.
We continue to try to figure out what it means to be a Christian today. We too must determine the deeper intent of Jesus' example.

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