Saturday, December 9, 2006

An Evangelical Looks At Jesus

Presented an "Evangelical Perspective on Jesus" on 20 May at Bangsar Lutheran Church, an Emergent Malaysia meeting. There was also a Catholic, Charismatic and NT Wright spin on the person of Jesus, all highlighting on how much we have common as summed up in the ecumenical creeds.

I was confused, am I supposed to give a testimony? Or focus on Jesus? Arh... Tembak je lar. Began with my Ipoh story of being 'evangelised' by a schoolmate. I gotta 'accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior'.. This famous phrase needs some unpacking.

Being raised in a traditional chinese/taoist/buddhist family, I'm not particularly well-trained in the religious tenets but I know enuff the principle that you reap what you sow. At 15, I know that i've committed enough sins and wrongdoings to deserve punishment. So Luther's search for a gracious God was also mine. The first image of Christ was the Savior, He died on the cross as a substitute for us, taking upon Himself the divine punishment which we deserve and His righteousness is counted as ours so we may be reconciled to God. At our worst, evangelicals often have a blind spot on institutional sins - like political oppression, economic injustice, environmental destruction etc.

The virtue of cliche is brevity, its vice is shallowness. Nobody could claim that Jesus is Lord of every single area of his or her life this side of heaven yet we must know that Christ's Lordship permeates our personal as well as 'public' life. Calling Him Lord means obeying Him in all things. We are called and ordained salespersons, clerks, engineers, teachers, jazz musicians and lawyers (!!) etc
We need to come out from a 'ghetto, privatized faith' mentality.

The cherished hymn "What A Friend We Have In Jesus?" reminds us that Jesus is not only a moral example, a symbol or an authority figure. Evangelicals are 'big' on the need to have an intimate relationship/personal encounter with Jesus. He is someone closer than a brother, who hears and walks with us. A present reality! But can I say that at times, we carry it too far when "Jesus is my buddy" talk borders on the sin of levity?

Evangelicals are big on threefold ministry of Christ as Prophet, Priest and King. As a prophet, He reveals the will of God. In His life, teaching and action, He shows us how genuine humanity ought to be. Gentiles are included in the people of God... Evangelicals take seriously the Great Commission, and seek to make disciples of all people groups.

At our best, social action and evangelism are equal and inseparable partners in mission. Imho, at our worst, social action is seen as merely a means to evangelism.

Lastly, Jesus is God Incarnate - fully divine, fully human. Here, we share the same Nicene/Chalcedon orthodoxy with other traditions. Some sections of evangelicalism suffer from historical amnesia (even chronological snobbery) - 'it's just me, my Bible and God'. But genuine evangelicalism recognizes our rich legacy of faith with Christians throughout the ages

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