I have been reading through Dallas Willard’s excellent book Knowing Christ Today, and this morning read a beautiful (somewhat lengthy) passage that I want to share.
Willard is discussing how Jesus seems to stand “apart from” all the critiques that are typically leveled at religion. Despite Christians sometimes acting in horrendous ways, “Jesus comes through in spite of everything,” Willard claims. “Religion has many critics, but Jesus very few. He is a self-authenticating reality beyond the myriad social cocoons. He belongs to humanity. He called himself ‘Son of Man.'” Willard goes on to talk about
a Christ that transcends all social visions and all entanglements with religion. In him God breaks through. “Christian faith is not religion,” [agnostic sociologist Peter Berger] affirms. That is the scalding truth of the matter. Suddenly from under the smothering panoply of human visions there emerges an outbreak of realism–a little breath of something that promises to interrupt and stand in judgment upon all our enculturated “visions” and their possible “alterations” of one into another. It is the Jesus of “all nations,” or “all ethnic groups,” of all kinds of people, of “whosoever will”–of the last who are first and the first who are last in human orders. He is the light that gives light to everyone who is in the world…
Jesus Christ is present in this world, the only world we have, and in many ways. His teachings, even mangled and broken, have an incredible power to disrupt human systems, including the ones that claim to own him. He is the misfit and thus is available to all who would seek him. His crucifixion and resurrection announce the end of human systems and stand in judgment over them. He is the man on the cross calling us to join him there. He makes himself available to individuals who hear of him and seek him. In many forms both inside and outside the church, with its traditions, symbolisms, and literature, he is simple here among us. He is in his people, but he does not allow himself to be boxed in by them. He calls to us by just being here in our midst. There is nothing like him.
When you talk about Jesus like that, it’s difficult to think of who wouldn’t want to follow him and experience life with him. It’s the best “altar call” I’ve ever heard.