Monday, December 21, 2015

Christ our hope

The titles and names we attributes to God and to Jesus Christ or specially significant, because they inform the manner in which we think about theological issues. Unless we have the right idea about God, we are not going to relate to him properly, and our spiritual lives will suffer. If you talk to people who do not believe in God, they often times will describe God in ways that seem utterly unfamiliar to Christians. Many people do not believe in God because they have entirely the wrong idea about him.

For this reason, it is especially important to take note of the titles that the scriptural authors use to describe God and Jesus Christ. With this in mind, I want to bring to your attention the use of titles by Paul and his first letter to Timothy, which are especially poignant:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope (1 Tim 1.1). 

God is our Savior and Christ is our hope. This is the message of the holy apostle, and this is the message of the Christian religion. But the manner in which we receive this message is up to us: do we accept that God is our Savior, or do we instead trust in ourselves that everything is fine as it is? Is Christ Jesus our hope, or do we have no need of hope outside of ourselves? 

For those of us who are Christians, we too easily fall into the trap of trying to think about God in ways that are not provided us by the scriptures. Rather than thinking about God as Savior, out of fear of condemnation we think of him instead as Executioner or Terminator. Guilt and fear and a sense of personal unworthiness paralyzes us and keeps us from approaching God in repentance and confession. Or worse, we think we have no sins of which to be forgiven, and then instead of God becoming our Savior, we are convinced instead that he is just out to put us down and make us feel bad and keep us from enjoying life. 

Likewise, it is easy too easy for many of us to forget that Jesus Christ is our hope, and not anything else. Joseph Ratzinger says that Christ in himself is sheer salvation, and inflicts perdition on no one. In the same way, Christ himself offers peace and rest to any who come to him, and whoever believes in him has eternal life. We cannot allow ourselves to be deceived into fearing condemnation from Christ, which will paralyze us in our sins. Rather we must approach Christ in faith and in love, having no fear because perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4.18). 

We have to make a choice whether we will accept the gospel message or not. Is God our Savior, or is he looking to burden us and shackle us? Or is he ready at any moment to zap us for trivial mistakes? Is Christ our hope, or do we have no need of anyone outside ourselves? 

Christmas is near, and it is worth it for all of us to reflect upon the truth of the holiday. What God is it who takes on human nature, is born in vulnerability and humility, and submits to limitations and weaknesses of human existence—even to a wretched death—in order to demonstrate his love for us? What further demonstrations of God's goodness and love do we need?

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