Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Samuel Wells, Man's nature and Christian Anthropology

The song goes, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" The implied answer is yes and I was with the crowd chanting for blood, an answer rooted in Christian anthropology.

Recently, I heard a sermon by Duke Chapel's Rev Samuel Wells, What's wrong with God? (for video), which provoked my thinking about Christian anthropology. For those who haven't heard Sam Wells before, listening to one of his sermons is like eating balanced meal; it leaves you feel full and healthy.

What I like about his style is how he can simplify concepts without dumbing them down. In this sermon, he breaks down why people have trouble with faith in Jesus into three problems. Jesus seems far away in time. Jesus seem far away in space. And Jesus seems so different from us; he is just too darn good for people who just are so mean and hateful as we are. It is the last one that made me think about the nature of man.

I cannot be certain, but I think most of us understand that we are mean and selfish in our core. We jump back in horror from the word sin not because it insults, but because it reveals the truth about us. Most of us carry around resentments directed at our parents, unwilling to forgive them, even to the point of poisoning our own lives, repeating the cycle for our children. The sins of the father visits the children for three generations, and we all know that we have the destructive patterns in our life. Such basic understanding about ourselves should gives us a small dose of humility, yet it becomes a source of pride, pride being a certainty in our own rightness.

I can be right or I can have love. These two push each other out, and only one can have space in our hearts. I, in most cases, chose being right, and that is my sin. For to be right, I commit the sin of trying to be God,with an understanding of God as control. God as love is very far away. In closing his sermon, Rev Wells made the case for the Holy Spirit transcending sin and making Jesus present in our lives. The Holy Spirit forges us out of the individual rightness and into a community of love. We can transcend our own nastiness with the help of Jesus. This is the good news of the Gospel.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I was helped by the writings of James Loder when he equated the Holy Spirit with the Spirit of Jesus. I hadn't made that connection before, or at least not deeply. It helped me see how, as you say, the Spirit makes Jesus present to us. Peace to you today.