In the business of theology it is hard not to be controversial - Jurgen Moltmann

Monday, 18 September 2006

Bits of Thoughts on Christian Praxis

I probably should have written this 24 hours ago when my thoughts in this was fresher. But anyway …

The sermon I heard yesterday in St. Mary’s was preached from Mark 8: 27-35 in parallel with James 2: 14-18. It just dawned on me that the passage can be read in such a way as to challenge a complacent notion of Christian life.

In our (?) (Protestant? Evangelical?) usual reading of Mark 8:27 ff par, the focus is often put on Jesus revealing his messianic identity to the disciples, and in particular on the answer from Peter, ‘you are the Christ, the son of the living God’. The norm of understanding was that Jesus rebuked Peter for his misunderstanding of Christ’s mission, and that Peter for at least one moment attempted to sway Jesus from going through the anticipated suffering and death. That suffering, nonetheless, was only for Christ, not anyone else.

Yet I suddenly came to aware that the whole matter in fact centred on the issue of complacency. Peter’s words to Jesus probably flowed naturally from his own tendency for comfort and safety, and hence he did not want Jesus to take risk. You are the son of God, with all your privileges, why bother going through all these hardships? Come on, live a good life, since you are under divine protection. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Have you not heard a lot of similar ‘faith claims’ in the modern Christian churches? God makes you prosper and secure. What a no-pain Christianity! Appealing, huh?

Then Christ talked about taking up the cross. It was not just Jesus who was to take up the cross and die, but all who fancied following Jesus, Peter included, of course. What an open rebuff to Peter, and the natural human tendency he represented. The tribulations that Christ was to go through were not solely intended for Christ alone, but for all who claim to be followers of Christ. No-pain Christianity has no place in the eyes of Christ.

Then, as James 2 brilliantly put it, what good is it if one merely claims to have good faith? Good faith has to come with and be demonstrated by good deeds, which, in a world of tension, hostility, sarcasm, often entail undeserved suffering for the good cause. No-pain Christianity has no place in true Christian praxis in this world.

Alright, the above is NOT exactly what the priest has preached on Sunday, though it is quite closely related. (‘Quite’ in the British sense.) It is my thoughts during and after the sermon.

By the way, I still have not yet figured out (after all these decades) what ‘taking up the cross’ would have meant for the first audience of Jesus -- when the cross of Christ was not yet a historical reality. I can only be certain that 'the cross' must have a very different meaning from later understandings -- not to mention ours which have gone all the way through two millennia of theologising. Could anyone doing New Testament or Christian Origin enlighten me please?

‘Good will inevitably attracts [sic] the attention and hostility of evil and will never triumph without pain and suffering. Innocence is no safeguard, and supreme innocence (as of Jesus) will attract the greatest hostility.’

- from the weekly newsletter of St. Mary’s Cathedral, 17.9.2006

5 comments:

sf said...

飲者, 我借了你此文一段話當問題拿去會訊信仰信箱欄當問題. 這欄目問者是不署名的. 為求「逼真」, 我用了「我的感想」云云, 你不介意嗎?

Yam 飲者 said...

搵D咁野搞呀大佬!咪玩啦!

Dot said...

I do agree with this point---"No-pain Christianity has no place in true Christian praxis in this world". I believe that God invites Christian to go deeper into one's own life. When we see the reality of our life, we will definitely suffer, as we have a deep understanding of human nature. Especially when we try to live the truth with such a limited and sinful nature in such a corrupted world.

However, as per my observation and experience, quite a lot of Christians appear to misinterpret, better say, wrongly apply the belief in an unnecessary way.

To put the situation in a more exaggerated way, somtimes Christians will do some unneccessary sufferings in the name of Christ. Maybe, I am also one of those.

hmvchan said...

噢,任公都係返循道會咩?我地教會上星期都係講呢段經文啊!Message方面同你提及都好似差不多(我英文差兼未訓醒嘛!),淨係記得佢叫我地諗下,每逢經過homeless人問你取散子時的心情......

Yam 飲者 said...

明哥:不是的,沒有到循道公會很久了。雖然很多時候都心思思想回去以前聚會的循道禮拜堂,但地理距離是個實際問題。
你聽到的,大概是講雅各書2多過馬可福音8吧?我真的從未見過更正教裡面有人從那個角度看Mk8/Mt16。
無論如何,不同宗派不同地域,同一主日講同一經文/信息,也就應驗了信經上所說:「我信聖徒相通。」(My favourite啊!)