Monday, April 30, 2012

Who is this Jesus?

Today my niece shared on Facebook a beautiful photo of Jesus accompanied by a quote from 2 Nephi 25:26. The quote basically said “we believe in Christ” and my niece affirmed that this is indeed what she believes.

I’m pretty sure that her cross-posting is an attempt to help those who don’t know about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints understand and know that they too are indeed believers in Jesus, and therefore entitled to be considered Christian. This topic, as most of us know, has really entered the consciousness of our nation, as Mitt Romney, a devout Mormon, marches forward to become the Republican Candidate for President. 

It reminds me of another argument LDS folks make for being Christian when they say something to the effect of “well of course we believe in Jesus, His name, after all is in the name of our church.” Truthfully, LDS folks are quite offended and perplexed that we’d ever consider them anything but Christian when they so obviously embrace Jesus Christ, more or less as depicted in the pages of the Gospels.

I once read a clever analogy written by an acquaintance of mine about buying a truck. His analogy went something like this: I wanted to buy a truck, and I saw a truck that looked great to me. I couldn’t see any obvious problems, the price was right, and I was ready to buy it. However, he happened to live next door to the owner of the truck and knew that this truck was a real lemon. It had recently been to a mechanic who said it was on its last legs, and wouldn’t even last six months. To top it off, the body was full of rust that was carefully hidden by wax and a great detail job, so while I saw a few cosmetic defects, I was missing seeing that it was ready to fall apart. Would it be kind, or fair for my friend to not tell me the truth about the truck I was buying? The answer to that question is obvious.

The analogy applies here in that Jesus, and who He really is, isn’t just cosmetic either. He’s not an unimportant point in our religious discussions, but instead who Jesus is, is very probably the most important issue in our religions. Unfortunately it’s not really a discussion most LDS folks want to get into.

The LDS Jesus is a man who also is a God, the son of God really. He’s also the brother of Satan, and coincidentally you and I. The LDS Jesus is a man who is working and striving to learn and improve to achieve full-godhead so that someday He too can be a “God the Father” on another planet and another time.  The LDS Jesus is eternal only in the sense that his intelligence is eternal, just like all of our intelligences are eternal. In a very real sense the LDS Jesus is a man—very much like you and I, except of course that he’s perfectly sinless, and we, alas sin.

The Biblical Jesus on the other hand, is God Almighty (Is. 9:6) who also chose to be God with us (Matthew 1:23). He is eternal, and was always eternally God. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere all the time. He, in many ways, is indescribable and certainly can’t fully be understood by our finite minds. In short, He is God (John 1:1) and because He’s God, He really is too big, too awesome really, for us to understand.

The difference between the two is the difference between us and God, the difference between the finite and the infinite. The difference between a God who really is a man, with a man’s limitations saving mankind by their own works, and his sacrifice, and a God who became a man for a time in order to save us from ourselves.

It’s the difference really of limiting Jesus to His barest reality found in the gospels, that of a great, important, and even awe-inspiring man walking among men. It’s forgetting or ignoring those parts of the gospel that scream out that Jesus was not just a man, but He was also God, the God who walked among us, the God who could have called down 10,000 angels to fight for Him, but instead chose to die a horrible, cruel death on the cross and a death that none of us, no man among us could die because no man, no matter how noble is good enough to pay the price He paid.

It’s the difference that Thomas saw when he fell at Jesus feet and cried “My Lord and My God” (John 20:28) worshipping Jesus as God, as God Almighty, as the Prince of Peace, and as the Lamb who was slain.

It’s a difference that’s important; fundamental really.

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