Wisdom from the Good Friar

I’ve often struggled — both with myself and with non-religious friends — with the words to describe why I follow Jesus and, in effect, “blindly” accept all those crazy propositions about him. Born of a virgin. All the miracles. Resurrection.

The rational part of my brain can’t wrap itself around many of the stories I learned on a flannel board in Sunday School, and yet I still, to a large degree, believe them.  Then I read Fr. Richard Rohr’s e-mail meditation from today (sign up here … well worth it), and his words resonated with me.  His main point?  This isn’t primarily an intellectual exercise, people. It’s a way of life. A new way of being. A return to our humanity.

Let me know what you think:

Jesus says, “I am not asking you to just believe my words, look at my actions, or the ‘works that I do.’”

Actions speak for themselves, whereas words we can argue about on a theoretical level.  The longer I have tried to follow Jesus, the more I can really say that I no longer believe in Jesus. I know Jesus.  I know him because I have often taken his advice, taken his risks, and it always proves itself to be true!

Jesus is not telling us to believe unbelievable things, as if that would somehow please God.  He is saying much more to us, “try this, and you will see for yourself that it is true.”  But that initial trying is always a leap of faith into some kind of action or practice.

In summary it can be put this way:  We do not think ourselves into a new way of living.  We live ourselves into new way of thinking.  Without action and lifestyle decisions, without concrete practices, words are dangerous and largely illusory.

Adapted from Preparing For Christmas, pp. 48-49


3 responses to this post.

  1. I agree with you and him that embodying is much more important than believing. “Try this, and you will see for yourself that it is true,” resonates deeply with my way of engaging Jesus’ teachings.

    My question is this: How do the virgin birth and the miracles help you to live out Jesus’ teachings? Or how do you “try this out”?


    • Great question, Cody. Without going into too long a history lesson, I will simply say that the narrative of “god, born of a virgin, killed/died and resurrected after three days,” was not an original scenario to Jesus. Meaning other gods had come along prior to Jesus whose births, lives and deaths eerily mirrored that of Jesus’. See, we think we have the corner on those narratives, but we don’t. So in light of “new” evidence to the contrary, we have to look at those events differently. I’m not sure there is one way to look at them, just like there isn’t a singular interpretation of the atonement. It hits different people differently.

      But what if the parallels were meant to be a direct affront to the preceding gods, a sort of subversive way of saying, “You ain’t seen no one like this guy”? What if the parallels aren’t meant to be viewed literally, but as a validation that this god/man comes in a long line of gods before him, but he’s going to shake things up in a way the world has never seen? It’s quite possible that these characteristics had to be attached to Jesus in order to legitimize him with people of the day. (“real gods are born of virgins, resurrect after 3 days, etc”) I don’t know, though. I’m still thinking through the implications.

      Another way to look at it (and this is probably my personal view) is that the miracles, specifically, point to Jesus as “more than just a man.” They say, “this guy’s special.” He has a connection with God and a way to live that is to be emulated. Again, the originality and radical nature of his ethic of life in a sense makes us “believers” in the other things writers say he did, whatever that means. (not the other way around, for me at least) But like I said, I’m still thinking through all this and am open to alternative interpretations.

      Whatever the case, I would hope we can agree that our righteousness before God at the culmination of all things is unlikely to hinge on whether we believe certain historical events literally happened (about God/Jesus), but, as Matt. 25 suggests, how well we love God and neighbor. (feed hungry, clothe naked, visit imprisoned, etc)


  2. Posted by miller on December 7, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    i think one of the markers of modernism is a need for understanding… i would hope one of the markers of post modernism is an acceptance of mystery. however, my feeling is that most people (including “post moderns”) cannot brook mystery in any form.

    i think we have to get over this need for understanding. i understand hardly anything when i get right down to it… and i’m OK with the mystery! in fact, i love living a life with mystery in it. it doesn’t mean i’ve had to put my brain in a box, only that i’ve accepted the fact that i can’t understand everything… and that understanding isn’t a prerequisite for acceptance.

    as Uncle Hub said to the kid in “second hand lions”…

    “dammit kid, if you wanta believe something, go ahead and believe it… doesn’t matter if it’s true. in fact it’s important to believe in some things that may not be true…”

    i like that movie.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: