Jesus is the answer!: But what is the question?
By now the catchphrase “Jesus is the answer!” has become a standard trope among Christians and churches. Looking back now (after being a Christian for slightly more than two decades), I notice that as a young Christian, I accepted this phrase so wholeheartedly that there has been occasion where I bandied to people around me as if it is an article of faith. Nonetheless, as I grow older, I began to have doubt about such a slogan. If Jesus is the answer then what is the question?
More often than not, Christians always provide answers to questions which people are not asking. Rather, we assume our answer is sufficient regardless of the question. So, if Jesus is the answer … then what is the question that we are asking here?
More often than not, this “answer” seeks to direct the hearer to the quest of personal salvation and the meaning in life. Indeed, it can be said that church service is nothing more than self-therapy that seeks to salve the wounds inflicted upon us by our colleagues, boss, family, etc. Is it a wonder then why churches devoted to glitzy worship sessions coupled with therapeutic sermons have witnessed its membership growing at an exponential rate?
Over the years, I’ve become weary with this “answer” which the Church is providing. In the quest for personal meaning and salvation, has the Church becoming irrelevant to the world? In short, the Church is now a ghetto with nary a care for what is happening around them. I think the burning question of our time and in our context is the question of relationship, i.e. what is her relationship to society at large? To be more specific:
- What is her stand on the marginalized in society?
- What is the Church stand on power?
Let me be very clear here. I do not question the need for personal salvation and meaning but rather aren’t we overemphasizing one aspect of what it means to be followers of Jesus? Perhaps the best way to make my stand clear is to use two favorite phrases of Martin Luther when referring to Jesus. They are “pro me” and “pro nobis”.
Let look briefly at both these phrases. Pro me refers to “Christ for me,” i.e. Jesus atoning death at the cross for my salvation and the promise of a new creation which I will be part of. I think the Church have clearly sent this message to those in and around her as to what she is all about.
As to pro nobis. It simply means “Christ for us” where God the Son identified himself with and died for humanity. What exactly does this mean to us who follow Jesus? I take it to mean his (and by extension, our) self-identification with society. He came to bring the good news of the Kingdom of God to all.
More importantly, the good news is not just an announcement of what is to come but also by his personal actions of bringing healing to the poor and sick as well as castigating the rich and powerful that God is King and judge of all. In short, Jesus sought to heal the wounds which humanity inflicts upon themselves. Can we, who call ourselves his followers, do anything else?
Is it then a surprise that among those who are perceptive on the wounds of humanity feel that the Church is becoming irrelevant and thus no longer have fellowship in the Church? And that for them, in place of the church, they became active participants in civil society and in politics as a sign of following Jesus.
Can the Church ignore this group of brothers and sisters because they formed the minority? By doing so, have the Church forgotten the message of the gospel is not just only “pro me” but also “pro nobis?”
I’m writing this piece because I’ve encountered such brothers and sisters who have either left or on the verge of leaving the Church. I can identify and sympathize with them. And in my own personal journey of faith, I find myself having a love-hate relationship with the Church which have caused me to leave her but always coming back. Yet, this feeling of uneasiness remain.