Jesus Believes It Is Possible!
by Greg Ogden, D.Min
Executive Pastor of Discipleship, Christ Church of Oak Brook, Oak Brook, IL
ould Jesus ask something of us that couldn’t be done?
At the center of all the biblical commands and at the very core of “everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20), Jesus declares that we are to love God with everything we’ve got and love our neighbors in the same way that we cherish ourselves.
Really? Is this possible?
The energy behind the writing of this curriculum comes from an insight that is quite frankly embarrassing. It is embarrassing because I should know better. At first, the insight doesn’t seem very dramatic. In fact, every time I have shared this personal “revelation” with others I have been sheepishly apologetic. But here is the amazing truth: Jesus actually thinks we can become like him. Jesus actually believes that it is possible for frail and deeply flawed human beings to focus our complete affection on God and others.
The key word here for me is possible. I had unconsciously given up the possibility of actually doing what Jesus commanded. No, I had never consciously thought or said, “Jesus, I think you’re an idealistic dreamer,” or “Jesus, you can only expect so much from flawed humanity.” I was not even aware that I had dismissed Jesus’ belief in me. But what had taken over my spirit in my attempt to be authentic was a focus on where I had fallen short of Jesus’ call. In my desire to make sure that I was not deceiving myself about my capacity for sin, I had given up the upside possibility that the character of Jesus could actually take over my life.
The Impossible Possibility
Because of this insight, I have come to realize that we need to hold two truths in dynamic tension. On the one hand, we need to be rigorously honest about our shortcomings. Part of what it means to live in the light of Christ is allowing him to shine that light in the hidden regions of our soul. Yet at the same time we need to hold to the compelling vision that this same light illumines our path so that we can live into our potential of being God- and people-lovers. There is a Hasidic saying that advises us to go around with a piece of paper in each pocket, with one piece reading “I am dust and ashes,” and the other, “For me the world was created.” Yes, we are finite and broken people as well as those who have been redeemed to reflect the Redeemer. Jesus would not ask us to be and do something unless it was possible. We can become the bodily dwelling place of Jesus who lives his life out through us.
The vision that Jesus has placed before us comes in the form of his summary statement as to what our life agenda is to be. In response to one of the “teachers of the law” seeking to know which commandment was most important, Jesus responded with what we have come to call the Great Commandment: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30–31). He didn’t follow this up by saying, “I know I’m asking a lot, but do the best you can. I know you’ll never fully approximate this high and lofty goal, but it’s still worth striving for.” No, I added that part myself. In my spirit I washed out the possibility that this could actually be, saying, “I know the guy dwelling in this body all too well. Not a chance that this weak and feeble individual could ever approximate Jesus’ expectation.”
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