|from Starfish235 on flickr|
"Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Messiah." — Luke 2:25-26
Did those who eagerly waited for "the consolation of Israel" know what a troublemaker the child would grow up to be?
A friend posted a silly button that made me laugh out loud. Not the sort of thing that person usually posts.
Others were not amused. After half a dozen readers took my friend to task, I commented:
At the risk of fanning the flame, here's a question put to former Daily Show writer David Javerbaum by Salon, about research for his new comedic book about modern religion: "So spending all this time thinking about it: Does a New York liberal emerge with any new insights on religion as a result?"
A: As a Jew reading about Jesus, I thought he’s a pretty good guy. It’s the same conclusion Monty Python drew in “Life of Brian” – if people actually live what he did, it would be a pretty good world. But Jesus and Christianity have a tenuous relationship at best.
Someone I don't know replied:
People aren't capable of being Jesus. Christians know this and yet non-Christians keep expecting it. It is the fundamental gap between those who know Jesus and those who do not.
This struck me as an odd argument in light of what I've read in the Bible. I asked, "Do you ever have the feeling the 'Sermon on the Mount' may have been a severe error in judgement?"
To which the person I don't know responded, "How do you mean that?"
What I meant was that Jesus is on the record in a way that puts people who call themselves Christians on the hook when they encourage people to read the Bible.
I think anyone who reads the sixth chapter of Luke — even, and maybe especially, in the context the larger story of which it is part — can be forgiven for thinking Jesus means us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us; to give to everyone who asks; to treat others as we want to be treated; to be merciful as God is merciful; to suspend judgment and condemnation; to forgive; to become recognizably like our teacher; to do what he says.
And, I think, a person who reads what Jesus says about such things can be forgiven for thinking we are not very serious if we claim Jesus means something very different from what he says.
I appreciate the way C.S. Lewis frames it:
I have said that we should never get a Christian society unless most of us became Christian individuals. That does not mean, of course, that we can put off doing anything about society until some imaginary date in the far future. It means that we must begin both jobs at once—(1) the job of seeing how ‘Do as you would be done by’ can be applied in detail to modern society, and (2) the job of becoming the sort of people who really would apply it if we saw how." — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, HarperSanFrancisco, 2001 edition, p. 88
It occurs to me this Advent that people longing for the government of God should be careful what they wish for. Simeon saw in the baby Jesus more than meets the eye…
Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” — Luke 2:34-35