Thursday, November 1, 2012

Experiencing Jesus

Atheists fascinate me.  I just don't get them.  From their experience and perception of the universe, they determine that God cannot possibly exist.  I don't deny them their claim, but I do find it an amazing act of faith.  Because they are denying the existence of a person because they have not experienced that person.  If I say to you, "The other day my friend Bill said to me..." and you interrupt me and say, "I'm sorry, but I've never met Bill, so I don't believe he exists" I think I might be justified in wondering at your reasoning.  You don't have to have met Bill to know that I have experienced Bill in some way.  Even so, there are billions of people who have experienced God in some way, and while you don't have to act on the experience of others, is it really rational to simply deny the experiences of the majority of humanity?

However, the basis of any relationship is experience.  To consider someone "saved" because they are convinced by an intellectual argument or because they rationally believe in a doctrine seems a considerable distance from Jesus' statement, "Trust in God, trust also in me."  Trust means knowing a person, finding them to be reliable and so leaning on them.  While part of our experience of Jesus is intellectual, that cannot be the heart of it.

But each person's experience is different.  Jesus only took three disciples out of thousands to the top of the mountain where they saw him transfigured in glory.  The majority heard this story, eventually, but only a bare few had this experience.  It is interesting that Jesus repeated this experience for his persecutor, Saul of Tarsus, but again, the 3000 who believed in Peter's message didn't have this experience.

Many more were directly healed by Jesus.  We don't have any numbers, but it was enough that thousands more followed Jesus wherever he would go to possibly be healed.  These healings continue to this very day.  There are many thousands who live today who affirm that their healing, their deliverance, their sound mind can be given to the glory of Jesus.  This is a powerful experience.  It means that Jesus is not only kind and merciful, but also powerful enough to change our lives for the better.

Still more have experienced Jesus through the actions of others.  There are so many who follow Jesus example, obeying his commands to love, show mercy, be compassionate, to give to the poor, to forgive.  And this community of love is experienced by millions of people throughout the world.  This is Jesus in his people, alive, powerful and changing the world one act of kindness at a time.

If we see our experience of Jesus as something intellectual, then we will base our life in Jesus as arguments, convincing others that we are right and they are wrong.  But the heart of Jesus is relationship: love, mercy and forgiveness from Him and from His people.  To whittle Jesus down to the intellect is to make him far too small: a weak and petty thing.

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