Thursday, February 03, 2022

Blessing and Rejection

There was a banner on Pilgrim Church in Dorchester, across from the Strand Theater where the Van Gogh exhibit was.  It read "Jesus didn't reject anyone.  Neither do we."  I have seen similar sentiments many times over the last couple of decades, and not only on UCC churches. (I didn't even bother to look.  I know it's UCC, partly from the sentiment, but also from the name and location.) I look at those and think What Bible are you reading?  Jesus rejected people all the time, and rather forcefully. I know what they mean, and there is a truth in there.  But it is less than half true. To recognise that Jesus did reject some people is to stumble upon the questions Who? and For What? My guess is they would be very happy with 50% of the real answers to those questions.  But the other half would be unendurable.  They sense the answer from afar, and don't want to hear it. 

So are we all in our own ways, usually in groups.

Ben's podcast at his Methodist church was examining the question of blessing, and how to square some common Christian expressions of "God blessed us with..." with regard to some good news, or even some object, with other words of his that suggest getting good things here may make us less eligible for good in the Kingdom, especially as expressed in the Beatitudes.

I have given my thoughts about the common (partial) misinterpretation of the Beatitudes before, and still like what I wrote then. Briefly, suffering or oppression here does not makes us more eligible for blessings in the kingdom (though it very well might make us more willing to seek them), but Jesus was preaching to a people that did not much believe that the downtrodden were much eligible at all. Even his disciples were shocked that the rich were not those more favored by God. (Matthew 19:23-25)

But I think understanding the tension between these ideas, of God quite clearly saying many times he has blessed Israel with good things - protection, victory, harvests - and similar ideas throughout the NT, though less often, versus offering a type of blessing that seems quite different is to regard them as small-b blessing compared to Real Blessing.  The former is a shadow of the latter, given to us to teach us what good things are in God. They are there to point the way, and they are many times describes as being worth more than all the small-b blessings combined.


james said...

It's amusing to note that the English bless is close to the (unrelated) French blesser -- to wound. I'm waiting for the prayer of thanks for "the blessings of my wonderful family, good friends, good job, and diabetes"
The painful things can be blessings too, but we don't like to remind God of that.

G. Poulin said...

The posts on the Beatitudes were very good. In my Catholic Church, everyone (including the pope) thinks that the Beatitudes are some kind of blueprint for building a better world --- when in fact they are a set of re-assurances Jesus is making to his followers (and only to his followers). Good work.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I am familiar with how common that other set of beliefs is. They aren't wrong, exactly, because those who have had hard lives are often those who will seek Jesus. But you don't get any special credit just for having a hard life, I don't think.

"A set of reassurances" captures it exactly, and I am going to use that phrase going forward. Thank you.

BTW, I assume that my understanding of this must derive from CS Lewis, as just about everything else I get right is. He doesn't say this directly, as he does with the Third Commandment essay, but I think it flows from his general thought.