Why is it that it’s so much easier to identify yourself based on what you’re against, or who you’re not, rather than what it is you’re for?
I find myself constantly making distinctions like the one pictured here; “Yes, I’m a Christian. Yes, I’m a Mennonite. Yes, I’m even a pastor…BUT I’m not that kind. I’m not the kind you’re thinking of.”
I’m the cool kind.
I feel the need to clarify, often because I know (or at least I think I know) exactly what people are thinking when I share my occupation. I can almost hear the negative stereotypes start playing through their minds, and I want to beat them there.
But the truth is, it’s a lot harder to talk about what I am than what I am not.
Really, it should be just as hard to talk about being human as it is being a pastor. After all, given the history of our race (the human race), there is at least as much reason to distance myself from humanity as there is from the Christians I disagree with.
We’re all capable of hatred, bigotry, arrogance, and greed. Brokenness needs no religious affiliation.
But asking the question; what am I for, as opposed to simply what am I against; this is a question I think we are all ill-prepared to answer, but even less so those of us who claim the name of Christ as a way of self-identification.
Because to follow Christ is to journey towards a cross of our own; that god-forsaken place where we feel totally and utterly abandoned. The cross is where our own personal demons come out to play and we feel powerless over them. The cross is that darkest part of the night when we struggle the most with our self-image, with our fears and doubts, with the violence of our nature and the anxieties surrounding our inadequacies.
It is absurd to imagine a voluntary journey to such a place and so we don’t. So it is that our own personal cross, rather than being emptied of its power, it retains power over us.
We identify ourselves by what we are against, because it creates an illusion of identity.
But the hard truth is, we don’t really know who we are. We know who we wish not to be, but we don’t really know who we are, or what we’re for (other than the generic niceties that give us some social standing in a pinch).
In other words, I’m all for the love and the grace and the forgiveness and the mercy and all the other positive things that we’ve traditionally taught that Jesus came to give. But none of them are specifically (or should I say ‘distinctively’) “Christian.”
Jesus is more than a Sunday School teacher telling us to all just get along. The crucifixion was more than a sacrifice to appease a most Holy God because I consistently eat too much cheesecake.
What happened on the cross was a reconciliation of that which cannot be reconciled. The impossible was made possible; not just for a moment in time; but rather for eternity.
Jesus faced the cross because in marching through that desolation…that hell…of a forsaken existence, he could bring back from the grave the first-fruits of the resurrection.
But we’re not there yet. This is only week 2 of Lent.
What is it that you stand for?