Monday, November 29, 2010

Impressions: Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight

Jesus Creed is a book about love. For a variety of reasons (some sinful and some justified) I have been suspect of books that are all about love. I think for a long time I have associated this word with flakey Christianity, a Christianity without guts. When Mcknight writes about love, however, he writes about love with a backbone; it is a love that isn't easy: God love and neighbour love (what McKnight calls the Jesus Creed).

Some Reflections:

1) McKnight begins the book by explaining what the Jesus Creed is all about. Jesus takes the Shema of Judaism and amends it to include neighbour love. When the Jesus Creed becomes a prayer we get the Lord's prayer. McKnight recommends repeating these often. This is a powerful tool for spiritual growth and I have found that repeating the Jesus Creed and the Lord's prayer reminds me of what it means to act like a Christian. It tells me that I become more like Jesus when I am identifying the needs of others and become a servant. Like the Good Samaritan we are to look to the side, not just 'out there', but in our own homes as well.

2) McKnight says that we should embrace the stories of those who embrace the Jesus Creed. Of all the people he writes about in this section his chapter on Mary fascinated me the most. Evangelicals don't generally say much about Mary but McKnight claims (speculates?) that a lot of what Jesus said and taught was learned from his mama. He looks at the Magnificat and points out that Mary had a kingdom vision; hers was a vision of a society where God's will is done, where things are put right at last.

3) "A spiritually formed person lives out kingdom values," says McKnight. One thing that particularly excited me about this book was the emphases placed on the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is the society where God's will is done and the Jesus Creed is lived out. One of these values is that this kingdom is a kingdom of mustard seeds. This was helpful because many of us are attracted to those things which are GIGANTIC! But God's kingdom is marked by humble beginnings. This means that we can embody God's kingdom in the little, mundane, things in life. In other words, the kingdom is applicable to every day life.

4) Scot is all for the Bible. Not only does each chapter begin with a passage of scripture to reflect on before diving into the chapter but he tells us that one way we abide in Jesus is to learn at his feet; one way we learn at his feet is by reading and meditating on what Jesus taught us. He gives us helpful advice when he says that we don't always need our commentaries and study tools but just our bibles, our prayers, and the question, "What does this passage tell me about God's character?"

5) Finally, Scot goes through a variety of episodes in the life of Jesus and teaches us that those who love Jesus participate in his life. For Scot Jesus represents his people. This means that we can participate in his life, death, and resurrection. Jesus loved God and his neighbours perfectly; this is good news because God sees us as he sees Jesus (Reformed readers may particularly enjoy this section of the book). As people who fail to do these things we can find strength and power in the reality that Jesus did these things for us so that we would then be enabled to do them ourselves.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Righteousness and Cruciform Living

I have really been enjoying the Common English Bible which is a fresh translation of the scriptures (So far they have released the NT but you can get the Psalms from the website). At the same time, I have been becoming more and more convinced that justification comes through our participation in Christ's death and resurrection and includes transformation along with a declaration (thank you Michael Gorman ;-)). As a result, this translation of Phil. 3.9-11 really caught my attention:

In Christ I have a righteousness that is not my own and that does not come from the Law but rather from the faithfulness of Christ. It is the righteousness of God that is based on faith.10 The righteousness that I have comes from knowing Christ, the power of his resurrection, and the participation in his sufferings. It includes being conformed to his death11 so that I may perhaps reach the goal of the resurrection of the dead.

Righteousness comes from participating in the death and resurrection of Jesus and includes being conformed to his death. We are raised to be cruciform (thanks again Gorman!).