What Is A Christian? Pt. 2

One of the clearest things in the Gospels that we see is that the disciples don’t get it, or Jesus. This shows why following in the ways of God means constantly and consciously bumping up against him. Brushing up against God is like a traumatic experience. We experience, and it takes time to make sense of it. This is why the Kingdom of God is counter-cultural, in which it doesn’t make sense to the common mind, but, when we begin to see the unveiling of God, it makes more and more sense.

I am finding more and more as I get older that the road to God and the road to my true-self are in fact the same journey. To be made in the image of God means to constantly be in the union of God and myself. That we are, in fact, longing for what Christ had; perfect union. When I find God, I find myself. Which is why, so many of us, at least in the beginning, don’t find God until we are at the point of crisis. When we experience the end of ourselves, then God begins. The reality of God is the reality of myself.

In order to escape the isolated journey, we must realize that when we experience ourselves in his image, universally, we also experience the divine integrity of others. If all human beings are made in the image, and Jesus died because God wishes for all to be with him, then this demands an ethic of love and union with others. While this has typically been found in its narcissistic form of forcing every one to mend to my image, it should rather open us up to the fact that while God can begun to be understood, his existence will always remain some form of mystery to us. Which should help us remain open to others and strengthen our gifts in discernment and wisdom. This is the beauty of Emmanuel Levinas’ words which calls us to see God in “The Holy Other.”

This is the danger of hostility towards one another. When we close ourselves off to people, we close off a potential gateway between one’s self and God. Mother Teresa once spoke of how every impoverished person she met was a “Jesus in disguise.” To receive the presence of God in our lives, very few things will ever help us get there more effectively than receiving our own lives and receiving the lives of others; this is the divine DNA in which God chose to distribute himself. If we are not living present, then without knowing it, God is passing us by all the time.

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6 thoughts on “What Is A Christian? Pt. 2

  1. Travis says:

    A Christian is someone that is clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. A simple yet awesome truth.

  2. That’s what I love about speaking verbally about the tout autre in English. The Wholly Other, or is it Holy Other? It reflects onto the other Other, which also reflects back. And can even reflect back to me, if I am aware of it, to “become” (of course, I always already am) other (to others), and other to myself. Or, in Augustine’s words, “I have become a mystery unto myself.”

    I think this also reflects the event of the Other. When the Other shows up, it unsettles who and what we think we are. When God shows up, when Jesus shows up (and can you distinguish between them?!) we are unsettled. It is, potentially, a transformative moment. And that potential, it seems, is always just below the surface of our encounters, ready to break free. Viens, viens; oui, oui.

    If that sounds too Derridean, Chris Heurtz says similar things in his Simple Spirituality, the subtitle of which, gives that similar sense- Learning to see God in a broken world. Which is IN the world, in the people. (he is drawing on Mother Teresa too, so, it makes sense to be a similar thought!)

    Anyway, this is a good series 🙂

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Great stuff Jordan. I love when I hear people bring Derrida into religion. I’m sure you are familiar with Caputo and James Smith? They’re both Christians who do work within Derrida.

      I love the language of the unsettling event of the Other. To me, this is the only way true transformation happens. I need something to derail me, from me, in order to be exposed to that Holy Other.

      Just curious, how have you see the works of Philosophy transform your frame of thought and living? I spent quite a bit of time last year in Philosophy, and returned to a simple spirituality this year ( I imagine I’ll return at a later date).

      • Heh, easy question first- I am aware of Caputo and Smith. But Caputo I’ve actually read and am reading. Smith is on my amazon wish list, haha. I’ll get to him eventually!

        Your second paragraph, there, I agree with (completely, I think). Its a strange thing to talk about though, especially “Do I like this?” In a sense, that answer is No! Since it seems to bring about a kind of death, and dying is, well, not enjoyable. But one must be born again. Which then, is what I love about the experience. Its resurrection now, its life now. It opens up the possibility of living. It gives me hope, even if I can’t put words to that sense of hope. Sadness and joy at the same time. Laughing and crying at the same time. Life is then beautiful, while still admitting of the ugliness, the brokenness, and the hardship, etc.

        Kierkegaard has been very important to re-shaping how I’ve thought about faith, and no longer searching for certain kinds of certainty, especially in “objective” proofs, and historical studies, etc. That was something that without, may have led to a complete disavowal of faith at all. At the time I was being exposed to Biblical criticism for the first time, and it was pretty shattering. And that led into a new found sense of epistemic humility, along with some classes in continental philosophy. Which, through many appropriations of negative theology (which was also something I had never heard of before) led me to see God in a much grander way (and probably developed some of my panentheistic tendencies…well, not probably, more than definitely). And I guess, the turn to some mystics, by the philosophers, has been part of that as well. Reading Augustine’s Confessions helped develop some of that sense too, and discovering that Jesus talks about “the Kingdom of God” a lot, combined with some Jean Vanier….and, haha, there’s been quite a bit of stuff from all over impacting my thought, my way of understanding my experience, and so on. Mostly everything has added some way of making sense of what/who God is, who other people are, who I am, etc. It might take a book to separate it all out, where each impact is. That seems to be how I’ve learnt to think- to take what makes sense to me, seems right, and is useful, and then to use it with the other things which also fit that criteria. Reading Derrida and Levinas was the same. It struck me immediately how closely tied it seemed to be to what I saw in the Bible as the calling of being a Christian..(or, a Jew).

        More concretely, maybe, is that its given me better ways of articulating what has happened/what happens. I often have an inner place that I go to…”in my head”, which is represented by a study of sorts, with green leather chairs and couch, and tall bookcases with a sliding ladder. In the other room is a kitchen, with a sink, a wood stove and a simple wood table for drinking tea or coffee at. There is a pound cake in the center. I usually do the dishes when I am in there though. God sits on the couch. But he doesn’t exactly sit, since, well, I have no way of representing him. But God is there and I know when he clears his throat, he doesn’t exactly speak, but I know what he’s saying. And so often its “You’re judging those people. Being disgusted by them. They are my beloved, just as much as you are. They too are in my image.” I am reflected to them as I try to focus on the presence/absence that’s there. I’m reflected to my room as I encounter them. This is just one way it works, and it has been happening for awhile, but now I have language to begin to sort of talk about it. And it makes a little more sense.

        That’s, at least, a hodgepodge of an answer.

  3. Travis says:

    Biblical discipleship really comes down to a dedication and study of the Word. I am all about Sola Scriptura and Biblical Discipleship needs to be rooted in the revelation that God has given us. Jesus gave us a great example of this too. He lived life with the people. He ate with the people. He felt their pain and joy. But he also corrected them and with the correction gave forgiveness. That’s only a little bit because I need to go to work.

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