jesus is not the answer
The Sunday School answer for everything. From who created the world to who built Noah’s ark to who helps poor people in our city.
I wonder if sometimes those who’ve grown up in the Church continue to hope that this will be able to sustain their faith throughout life and all of its complexities.
When all else fails, the answer is Jesus.
However, life (at least for most) proves to be much more complicated than that. Our Christianese, simplistic answers aren’t necessarily the most satisfying responses to people who are hurting - including ourselves. To those who experience true heart break, is the pat answer of “Jesus” really that helpful? When things like suicide, moral failure, marital infidelity, wayward children, the loss of a loved one or some other form of a shattered dream happen, what do we say? How do we explain it? Are there really answers for this stuff? Life is hard. Thinking people want something more than reductionist, simplistic theology.
I mean, Jesus is the answer. Right?
Perhaps, Jesus isn’t the answer in the way we often try to impose.
As Christians, we’re not very good at getting past the reductionism and in the process, we miss being helpful by trying use “Jesus” as the answer in an unhelpfully simplistic or immature way. On the other hand, we sometimes try to explain things with such complications, no one can see past our moralizing, theologizing and ultimately banal answers.
I want to mention two snippets from two conversations I’ve had with two godly men who have verbalized dealing with this sort of pain in their lives. I found these fragments of conversation incredibly helpful.
- From a friend who is dealing with the aftermath of the suicide of a loved one: “I don’t understand it, and it hurts like hell - but I will trust Jesus.”
- From a pastor dealing with the repercussions from the moral failure of another pastor, colleague and close friend: “If your truth isn’t Jesus, your truth is going to let you down.”
When the old song sings “Jesus is the answer for the world today”, what does that actually mean? I think this requires nuances in order to reflect something beyond the moralizing that happens in a typical children's Sunday School class.
Jesus is actually NOT “the answer”. At least, not in the sense that Jesus is the explanation. He’s not the explanation we should give as to why awful things happen. Or talk about those awful things with our children or our congregations - or to ourselves. Jesus is not the interpretation of mysteries, our Christian crystal ball through which we can see the future and have every misunderstood and unexplained thing brought to clarity.
Jesus never claims to be that in the Bible, in spite of our songs. The Bible never promises explanations. Job sure never got one.
Jesus is the truth. That much is clear and is much more satisfying than understanding him as “the answer.”
I was reminded of this recently in a truly profound manner. A pastor I know said this recently: He’s the truth who loves us back. I find that to be incredibly helpful. He’s the one who profoundly knows and understands the pain, struggle and injustice that we experience on this planet. He knows about friends and family who die unexpectedly. He is knows about disappointment and sorrow - because He’s the Man of Sorrows. He knows about grief, because he was well acquainted with it. He knows the feeling of rejection, because he experienced rejection. This was his life. This was his death.
So - we trust Him as the “truth”, not as the one who is obligated to provide explanation to everything I don’t understand.
He’s the truth who knows our truth and who loves us back.
That’s where peace dwells.