WAS JESUS A REBEL?

 

We’ve often heard that Jesus was a rebel. Examples are cited of how he ate with tax collectors and prostitutes, ate from a farm on the Sabbath, overturned tables in temples, and called out the bluff of the religious authorities of the land.

Surely, to whip people in a Temple of worship and eat with sinners was a mark of rebellion in a society that valued piety  as dearly  as the Old  Testament Jewish society did. Surely Jesus seemed to have been acting in contradiction to the rules of the land.  People have said that Jesus rebelled against the Pharisees and their clique, that

“Jesus was the ultimate rebel…. He was the most non-conformist person ever so when people talk of certain submission and stuff regarding supposed authority figures, it goes against all Jesus taught.”

For others,

Jesus staged political protests to challenge the church, threw money changers out of the temple with a whip to protest corruption, hung out with lepers and sex workers and was ultimately crucified because he posed a threat to the power structure.

These are just a few of what people say about Jesus the Rebel,  but what shall we make of these claims? Was Jesus really a rebel?
Jesus indeed was an odd one; the religious authorities of the land could not place him in a box and tag him. But then, who could box God and tag Him? No one. Jesus was odd and seemed to live above the rules of the land because He was(is) God. While He walked in Judea, He was

  •  the image of the invisible God
  • the Person in whom the fullness of God dwelled fully ,
  •  before all things, whether social norms, traditions or human laws.
  •  above both valid and unjust laws, and above both the laws upheld by Godly fear and those upheld by hypocrisy.

Because Christ was before all things, He was odd and didn’t conform to the standards of the world. (Colossians 1: 15,16, 18,19.) Being the image of God, He was incomprehensible and a wonder to many who interacted with Him. This we can say of Jesus, but what could we say about His being a rebel? We will answer this more accurately by defining the noun rebel. A rebel is

  • A person who resists an established authority, often violently
  • a person who rises in opposition or armed resistance against an established government or leader
  • synonyms for rebel include: revolutionary, insurgent, anarchist, mutineer, subversive, terrorist( well, terrorist is a bit extreme but the dictionary lists it)

To say Jesus was a rebel, based on the fact that he lived against the norms of His society,  is a bit of a reach.  Defining Jesus as a rebel does not capture the fullness of His identity because the word does not suit the person, ministry and behaviour pattern of the Christ who walked Judea. It doesn’t suit because:

  1. Christ did not adopt violent or physical means of fighting against the established social-political and religious systems of Judea.
  2. Jesus encouraged his disciples and his audience to obey the rules of the land. Examples of such teaching can be found in Matthew 22:21. In this scripture Jesus teaches His followers to “Render to Caeser the things that are Caeser’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”
    Similarly,  Romans 13:1 teaches this:  “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those which exist are established by God.”
    If we will agree to the assumption that all scripture is inspired by One and the same Spirit, then we will arrive at the conclusion that it was the same spirit which operated in Christ  that operated in Paul, the writer of the Roman Epistle.
    If the Same Spirit inspired Paul’s words in Romans, it will mean that Paul could not possibly be teaching a contrary doctrine to what Christ taught and believed. Christ Himself believed and taught that His followers to be in subjection to the governing authorities. A rebel does not teach his disciples to obey the rules of the land, therefore Jesus could not have been a rebel.
  3. The precision and clarity of Jesus’ ministry was so important to Him that He found it necessary to remind his disciples that He had not come to overthrow the government or the existing political class.  To ensure that His disciples saw Him as who He was and not as a superman or some hero, He reminded them in Matthew 5:17-20Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 

    For those of us who believe that the Bible cannot contradict itself , it should be clear to us to see that we cannot say that Christ was a rebel and at the same time quote and affirm Matthew 5. To do that would be an active exercise in contradiction. Christ cannot be a rebel and at the same time tell his followers that He had come to fulfill the very law he is purported to have rebelled against.

  4. Jesus was not a rebel because He was submissive to the Laws of God. Obeying and keeping the laws of God was Israel’s first charge and call. The Sabbath, the rules of cleanliness and of tithing-  they were all to reveal the Holiness of God.  But instead of these Laws revealing the True one of Israel to the Israelites, the religious authorities of the land made the laws another god unto themselves, seeing the Law as an avenue for self-righteousness.
    What Jesus was kicking against was the double-standards and hypocrisy. Jesus was against the self-righteousness and masquerades, and against man-imposed standards that oppressed the poor and prevented them from seeing the glory of God. It was against the hypocrisy He rebelled, and even in His disagreement with the Pharisees,  he did not stage a revolt or encourage dissent.
    Why did Jesus refuse to conform to the religious hypocrisy of His milieu? It was simple: the rules deviated from the truth of God. So instead, He conformed to all the actual Laws of God and fulfilled them on the cross. To call Him a rebel and a revolutionary is to overlook His reason for coming to the Earth, which was to reveal God to mankind, and through His death reconcile us to the Father. In fact, calling Jesus a rebel is to toe the line of C. S. Lewis’ trilemma. In this trilemma, we can call Jesus only one of three options: a “Lunatic, Liar, or Lord”, or “Mad, Bad, or God.” Calling Jesus a rebel is choosing the option of Bad, and Jesus cannot be both Bad and God.


POST SCRIPT: LEWIS’ TRILEMMA

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Christ: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse….You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him or kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

SELLING AT THE CHARCOAL MARKET IN WHITE ROBES

IMG_2373

 

ICAS RETREAT, 2016

July 16th 2016, Hephzibah Christian Centre, eight people gathered around a computer, listening to Professor Esther Acolatse speak on the topic “Remaining Faithful to the Gospel in a Hostile World”. The room is silent as we watch the screen, listening to every word of this vessel of God. She begins by saying ‘we Christians are told that the world will hate us. We came prepared to be hated. There is a problem if we are not hated, because our Gospel is a scandal’. We didn’t think she was being facetious at all, for in her words we heard Christ’s words in Matthew 10:22-24 ‘and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake but he who endures to the end  will be saved…a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master’. If the world hated Christ, it will hate us, not for our sakes but for the sake of the man we proclaim as Lord. We come prepared,in anticipation of hatred. It is anticipation, not an eagerness. We do not deliberately go around riling up anger because we are expecting to be hated. We just know that if the world hated our Lord, it will hate us also. When light is shone into darkness, there is an outrage. It is like being asleep and having a light shone into your face, waking you out of the darkness of slumber. The light of the gospel, this message of love, is too grave for the world to comprehend. So it reaches out in anger, attempting to stamp out Christ, and we are his representatives.

Christ told us that the world would hate us, so we would have been forgiven if we had built monasteries in lonely mountains and retreated there to worship our King. But after we had been saved, Christ gave as the charge. What is that charge? Prof Acolatse describes it as such:while coming prepared to be hated,at the same time we are called on a mission into this death-dealing place on earth, a mission to go into the world and make disciples of all nations. The Christian has a double charge; it isto love both the Lord our God and love the perishing world enough to snatch it from destruction. While loving God with all of our lives by building ourselves up in our most holy faith, we are also to have compassion on this world and to save them that are perishing “with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment to be defiled by flesh.”

The problem with this two-pronged charge is how to reach out to the world and still remain separated from it. It is a problem of reconciling 1 John 2 with Matthew 28: 19. Here is the metaphor Prof Esther Acolatse uses: it is like selling some merchandise at a charcoal market in a white robe, and at the end of the day that robe must remain pure, untainted by the surrounding charcoal. The world is the charcoal market; Christians are the vendors in white robes.The life of a Christian is God’s epistle to this lustful world which He desperately desires to save. We must sell at that market, not in monasteries or in clean, holy places; for angels and saints have little need of our message. How do we keep our robes clean, and our hearts pure? Do we do this by gliding on top of people, seeing them as the wretched of the earth and priding ourselves in the purity of our robes? No, we keep ourselves pure by immersing ourselves daily in the source of our purity, which is the Blood of the Lamb.

Take this charge with you today; you are not of the world, but you live in the world, living for God and praying for the world. We are workers of God, we are working for Him. We are not working for the world as we are not of it. Sell in that Charcoal market, and as Christ is faithful our robes will remain pure because He has given us the grace to be as perfect just as He is.

Amen.

Origin of Man

Asare

 

A BRIEF REPORT ON THE DOCTRINAL PROGRAM

AT GHAFES UCC

 

Topic: The Origin of Man: Creation vrs Evolution

Speaker: Mr Asare Aseidu

 

Mr.  Asare made the program totally unique n different from most of the doctrinal blocks the fellowship does. He really engaged the audience on both days.  He emphasized on we loving the Lord with our minds n really stirred up the desires of the members to know the Lord in that direction. He did justice to topic at hand and explained the terms:

Creationism is the belief that everything we see is a result of intelligence and design

Evolution is the belief that everything we see is a result of natural selection.

 

He also pointed out that everyone has a worldview that makes us bias.

We all have the same evidences but interpret them in a bias way Romans 1:19-20

All worldviews must answer certain questions like “who am I? “,  “What am I here for?” etc.

 

He also pointed out that an Evolutionist must have more faith than the Creationist for Evolution to be true. There’s a pattern in the universe that shows intelligence and design meaning that there should be a designer

 

If the world is a result of the big bang theory then there’s no need for right or wrong.

The next day was more of a Q&A, which had the members fully involved in the discussion. This has been an unprecedented Q&A discussion ever done in a doctrinal block at the fellowship meeting.

 

I was at their Central Committee meeting yesterday n the evaluation of the program was superb as to the speaker n how he addressed the topic.  They wish to have more of such programs and Q&A discussions.

 

We bless God for a successful program.

ICAS RETREAT 2015- HEPHZIBAH CHRISTIAN CENTER PART II

 

cropped-ICAS_logo_final-3.jpg

 

 

icas2After our conversation(as she aptly put it) with Prof Acolatse on Making Christianity Relevant to Our Culture, the second part of the afternoon’s session of our retreat commenced at 4pm. This session was a Skype interaction with L.T. Jeeyachandran, the Director of theRavi Zacharias International Ministries (Asia-Pacific), based in Singapore. Our talk centered on The Disciplines and Character of an Apologetic.

L.T began his talk by quoting 1st Peter 3:15 “but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;”. The focus of this scripture that apologists hold dearly is not,as some are wont to think, in the always be ready aspect, but in sanctifying the Lord in our hearts. The apologetic discipline he said, isn’t worthwhile if all we have to convey to the world are beautiful words that wows the critics’ voice into silence. As 1st Thessalonians 1:5 says “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.”  L.T talked about one  main danger of apologetics, which is this: to defend truth in the abstract is very easy. The difficulty lies in our transmitting the truth we defend into our lifestyles. Defending an idea is easy; a life of honesty and transparency is the real hurdle. Is there a dichotomy between what we say we believe and passionately defend, and the lives we actually live?

According to L.T, speaking about truth correctly is not the same thing as living a righteous life. True spiritual discipline then, is a relational exercise, not a religious one. What do we know of the Christ we preach? Have we encountered him personally? Do we have an active relationship with him. 1 John 1 sums it all up for us when it says”that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to usthat which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your[a] joy may be full.” We are to talk to the world about a Christ that we have a relationship with, not an abstract concept shrouded in beautiful words.

What are the disciplines and character of an apologist? The apologist, like the evangelist, is sustained by both a personal discipline and a communal discipline. L.T started with these communal disciplines,the disciplines that should be intrinsic to the body of apologists. We were able to catch these three before a technical hitch from his end brought our conversation to a premature conclusion. And they are

  • encouraging one another
  • accountability to one another
  • a general realization that apologetics is not an end in itself, but the method one employs in conveying the message to the world. the focus is the message and the relational contact we have with the message. if this realization is overlooked, the instrument becomes more important than the Object.

The following topics are worthy of remembrance

  • to defend truth in abstract is easy
  • being true and transparent is where the interest lies
  • speaking the truth correctly does not equate rightful living
  • relational exercise, not a religious exercise .
  • relation, relation relation

 

ICAS RETREAT 2015- HEPZIBAH CHRISTIAN CENTRE.

 

 

ICAS_logo_final (3)

 

 

icasgroup

On the 4th of July 2015, ICAS  had its annual retreat at the Hephzibah Christian Centre at Peduase in the Eastern region. The day started off beautifully, beginning with the picking up of each member from an agreed location. Anane picked up the Ameyaws(Sarah and Kwabena) from Spintex, then they picked up Ibrahim at Legon and then they picked up my good self  at the Ashalebotwe junction at approximately 8:50. The weather quickly skipped from a sudden downpour of rain to a slight drizzle. From my junction, we drove off to pick up Asare at the Okponglo Ecobank, stopping over at Krystel’s Patisserie at Adjiriganor to grab some sumptuous pastries. The day was beginning on a veery good note if you ask me! Asare hadn’t been able to finish up his business at the bank, so we said our quick ” see you laters”; he was going to join us at Hepzibah as soon as he finished up. Grace was going to join us at the centre later as well.

So the journey began with conversations flowing in from all angles. We watched videos about how the African-American Church had lost its purpose in the car. I for one wouldn’t forget how a man was delivered from his homosexuality, and the testimony he gave in church! He testified that he loved women, women, women!

We arrived at Hepzibah around 10: 58AM. I found out that Hephzibah means my delight is in her, and really, our delight in the scenery was evident! We had been translated from the extremely urban and busy Accra to the serene, mountainous greenery that was Hepzibah Christian Centre. We checked into our rooms: Asare was roommates with Ibrahim, I was paired up with Grace, Anane rode solo and the Ameyaws shared a room. Shortly afterwards, we had our first prayer meeting in Anane’s room, led by Sarah and Ibrahim. We then got ready for our first talk with Prof. Esther Acolatse, an assistant Professor of the Practice of Pastoral Theology and World Christianity at the Duke School of Divinity.

The talk  started at approximately 12: 50pm. Prof Acolatse is extremely knowledgeable in theology and Christianity, and the beauty of it all was that her knowledge had not caused her to be puffed up, she still reflected the character of a person who bows  her studies down everyday to the illumination of the Spirit of God.Her clear-spoken words, her sense of humor, and her willingness to admit that she(and by extension christians) did not have all the answers was refreshing. She touched on the topic “Making the Gospel Relevant to Our Culture.”  The points below are excerpts of what she talked about

  • Our practice as apologists is to give an account of the Gospel in a way that people can understand. She undertook a little morphology with the word understand– stand+ under. Our defense of the gospel is to make men make meaning of out of it in order tostand under the umbrella of our faith.
  • She emphasized the fact that in spite of the fact that our cultures question our faith and runs parallel to it at times, this only makes our faith stronger. A faith that has grown through doubt stands stronger than a faith that has not.
  • People(non Christians) may not have a knowledge of our God or they may be outsiders to the knowledge of our God, but that does  automatically not make them outsiders to the concept of God.
  • Christianity has to transcend cultural barriers, our faith is not wedded to any culture. The Christianity that existed in Paul’s time is not expected to be the one that exists in our culture, but if Paul is to come back into our world , he should not have a cause to accuse us of practicing a different faith.
  • Though Christianity is not wedded to a specific culture, culture is necessary for the transmission of our faith. It is an indispensable medium through which we reach the masses.
  • All cultures are redeemable, and these redeemable points are the entry points for our Gospel.
  • What name will we call Jesus that will ruffle feathers where we are? how do we talk of our faith in a manner that Ghanaians will make a meaning out of?
  • The cultural lenses through which we read scripture and how it affects our understanding.

Do look out  for the continuation of the rest of the retreat in tomorrow’s post. God bless you all.