Monday, January 03, 2011

Christmastide, part three

God honors authority

Christ Among the Doctors is an important story in the life of Jesus, displaying both his full humanity and his full claim to divinity. It is the episode in Jesus’ life in which he discovered who he was, and yet this discovery didn’t make him proud. It begins with his disappearance from his parents, centers on his discourse with the Sanhedrin, but ends with him meekly returning as an obedient son.

In fact, he is an obedient son in two ways – to Mary and Joseph, and to God who gave him to Mary and Joseph.

Knowing his “real” Father didn’t make Jesus rebellious to the earthly family God had given him, but extra submissive to that family. God does not despise earthly ties. It is our godliness that requires us to be fully invested in this world and its inherent responsibilities with supreme fidelity.

When I was little and would hear my dad speak about this piece of Scripture, I always had a secret little voice in me that said: Please don’t let him apply this story in some way to honoring your mother and father and obeying your parents. It was like I understood that obeying my folks was a spiritual endeavor, and that my obedience to them was representative of my obedience to God, but I didn’t really want to make that connection. I wanted a free pass. I wanted to ignore the authority over me and yet still claim to be a “good” Christian.

Don’t we do this all the time? We flaunt the law and our employers, our spouses and our families but think nothing of it so long as we feel good about our spiritual relationship with God.

Religious people do this often when they protest at political or social gatherings,

thinking that the urgency of their cause is so great that it allows them to circumvent the process, to mistreat others, and to do whatever they please in service to their cause.

Christian people often do this if they are married to non-Christian spouses, just as devout believers do when they are married to lapsed or backslidden Christians,

thinking that “they” are often wrong or limited in their understanding in every capacity simply because they are blind to the spiritual reality of the world around them.

Christian teenagers do this when their parents don’t profess to be believers,

thinking that their parents are inherently base and foolish and have no real love for them because they don’t care to serve Christ, forgetting that Christ gave them those parents to begin with. Of course, there are some parents who are base and foolish and hurtful and those parents should be ignored, but on the whole we cannot simply disregard our parents and families merely because they do not share our faith.

Just as we cannot disregard our government

or law enforcement

or judiciary

or employer

or professor

or counselor

because they do not share our faith.

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