What Jesus' Authority says about God's Character

Okay, friends. This post is going to get a little heady with theology. But please stick with me. Sometimes the Psalms push us in that direction, and when they do, I think it's worth taking up the challenge. One of the things I love about the Bible is the way it encourages us to dig under the surface.

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What Jesus' authority says about God's character

The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet." -Psalms ‭110‬:‭1‬

This first verse of Psalm 110 is quoted several times in the New Testament. It is given as evidence of a Messiah with the authority of God, because the Lord (Yahweh) is talking to an individual who is Lord (Adonai) over David, the author of the Psalm. (See Matthew 22:44 and Acts 2:34)

But to me, there is another question embedded in the verse besides Jesus' identity: Jesus' character.

If Jesus had the authority to make His enemies a footstool under His feet, what did He choose to do with that power? 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Jesus regularly ate and spent time with tax collectors and prostitutes, people some might have thought to be enemies of a Holy God. Even as Christ attacked groups like the Pharisees, it is always about what they are doing (abusing their power and misleading the people), not about who they were. Even while hanging on the cross, Jesus famously asked His Father to forgive those who had put Him there, for they did not know what they were doing.

Over and over again, we see that Jesus' response to hate was love and His reaction to persecution was forgiveness. 

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Too often, presentations of "the Gospel" message have set up a scenario of a strict and holy Father, whose anger and judgment against humanity needs to be appeased. It is His loving son that offers to sacrifice Himself so that we might be spared. 

Though there may be some bits of truth in that, it cannot be a fair representation of God's character. One place we see that is in the many Old Testament stories of a God who gives unmerited favor, love, and forgiveness just as He does in the New.

Another place we see that is in Christ Himself. The Bible tells us "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation" and "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being" (Heb 1:3). 

If Christ is the image of God, that means anything we can say about Christ's character must also be true of God's character.  

Which means God cannot be a distant and judgmental presence, but an intimate and forgiving Lover of every soul on earth. Including enemies.

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I wonder if part of the problem is that God and humans define enemies differently. We often think about enemies as people, boxing those around us into categories of those who are for us and those who are against us, and positioning ourselves accordingly.

Perhaps God thinks about enemies not as people themselves, but as the diseases that have infected us. The abuse, hurts, misunderstandings, difficult histories, and pride that have negatively affected the way we treat our fellow humans.

Perhaps it is those diseases that have become a footstool for Christ, for in His love, that is what He was able to squash.  For God has always been, and will always be, in the process of redeeming us.

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“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, "Love your enemies." It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies. (from "Loving Your Enemies")”  - Martin Luther King, Jr


This post is part of my Psalms Journey series. I have been a bit sporadic with that series in the last weeks and months, but I am trying to get back on track. After all, I have made it to Psalm 110! This is no time to give up :)

#PsalmsJourney is a series reflecting on the Psalms one at a time, in order. Learn more about it on my Psalms Journey page. If you'd like to join me, put a link to your own post in the comments.

Finding Jesus at the Gym

I've been trying to find a rhythm of time these days. Something that could provide a sense of schedule now that I've lost the routine of going to work in the morning.

Enter: the gym.

I have been going to the gym while my son is in preschool. I workout during that window of time when I find myself jobless and kidless, with the potential to fall down the click-holes of the Internet if I'm not mindful. Losing my time and footing feels especially risky in this season of wandering and waiting.

I've been trying to get back in the habit of going to the gym anyway, hoping to lose some weight and gain some health. So, there seemed no better time to start than now.

The gym carries its own holes I could slip into, old habits of obsession and eating disorders, fears of looking as awkward and out-of-shape as I feel, shame about the size of my frame, anxiety that this endeavor in the end will be some sort of failure. I have been swallowing hard, and going to the gym anyway. 

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I was on the lateral elliptical machine, listening to a podcast sermon from my friend, Micah. It was an introduction to the book of Hebrews, in which one of the opening verses says this, 

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The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. - Hebrews 1:3

If Jesus is the exact representation of God, then any picture we hold of who God is that is not in line with what we know of Jesus, is wrong.

At the end, Micah challenged everyone to participate in a prayer exercise, to release to God a picture we are holding of who He is, and allow Him to replace that with a picture of Jesus.

Explanations of experiential service elements are usually the point of a podcast when I press skip and move on to the next sermon. Something is lost for me when I wasn't there to participate in them live and in-person.

But this time, I didn't press skip. I closed my eyes and wondered if God might meet me right there, at the gym, in the space between.

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The day before, I had been wondering if God was indifferent towards me.

My failures and my shortcomings seemed more visible than His goodness, and I wondered if He could, if He would, provide me a job I would love. I wondered if He cared about something that seems so trivial in comparison to the needs of this world.

I don't think I actually believe God is indifferent, but sometimes the things we don't believe feel more real than the faith we wish we had.

Eyes closed, moving in the rhythm of the elliptical machine, I gave the word "indifferent" to God, and asked Him to replace it with an image of Jesus. Skeptical, I might add, that He would actually do it.

Before I had time to think, I saw Jesus washing my feet.

I've heard it said that Jesus washing the disciples' feet was a great act of servanthood. Though that's true, it was also a beautiful embodiment of intimacy. Touching feet is not something we do when we are indifferent towards someone. Taking off someone's sandal, putting their foot in water, scrubbing their toes clean, these are all intentional acts that require closeness and time.

I imagine Jesus wiping my feet while He looks at me with a gleam in His eyes, the kind of satisfied look you see in the face of a loved one after the shared richness of deep conversation. I imagine Jesus gently wiping my feet until all the filth- the sweat, the fear, and the shame- is washed away by his love.

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I open my eyes and slow down. My workout is done, and it's time to get off the machine. 

I walk away hoping this picture of God will last longer than the post-workout high. 

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Do you have a picture of God that needs to be replaced with a picture of Jesus? God might just give you a vision if you ask for one. Even if you ask at the gym.

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Life after Easter

He is risen Not so many days ago We heard the phrase repeated Again and again. “He is risen.”

What does that mean now When the Easter holiday has passed And regular life has begun again?

Is it a phrase that means something on other days? Or is it only for the one time a year When we speak it with conscious awareness Of the celebration?

After Easter, Is Christ now back in the grave? Like a religious jack-in-the-box Waiting for us to turn the crank And set Him free To the tune of “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”?

That’s how we treat Him sometimes.

I don’t think we know what to do with the resurrection.

It sounds all happy and victorious For a day. But go much longer And it can start to sound a little too Supernatural.

“He is risen.”

It is much safer to confine that phrase, Those words, That reminder, To one day Than to keep its thought At the forefront of our minds And force us to wrestle with its weight.

It is a statement that asks a question. If Jesus is risen, then what will we do? And what will Jesus do in response?

If we hide, Cowering in the upper room Of our own fears, Jesus breathes on us And tells us to Receive His Spirit.

If we walk away, Traveling far from what it calls us to, Jesus strolls beside us And quietly explains The Scriptures concerning Him.

If we go back to our old jobs, To the boat that feels constant under our feet, Jesus calls us out, Makes us breakfast, And pushes us To live out our love.

He is risen And He is relentless.

Jesus is calling us to live As a risen people. A people who Find the hiding. Walk with the hurting. Seek after the truth. Deliver grace. Cook breakfast. Live boldly. Love.

He is risen.

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