“My Christian journey almost robbed me of the wonder of my humanity.”
The words of artist Colin Davidson to a class of Calvin College students meeting in Fitzroy, recently.
Sadly, the words rang true, for me. I grew up in a Christian faith influenced by a narrow legalistic puritanism. It was judgemental. Indeed, the theological belief that you are saved by grace was almost nullified by the fact that you had to then work like the clappers to keep that salvation. There were hundreds of dos and don’ts, very like the spiritual oppression that Jesus fought the Pharisees over.
The heresy of dualism, rife across a large swathe of Christian spiritualities, also played its part. The things of the spirit were good. The things of the material world were bad. There was a demarcation between scared things and secular ones.
In such a world a friend gave up sport after his conversion. It was secular. He was gifted but God, he was told, wouldn’t want him in those secular places that came with it. A little of the wonder of his humanity was robbed.
Bono, Edge and Larry from the rock band U2 were told by their Church to give up music. It tormented them for a time before, thank God, they made the right decision to keep on following their musical vocation. The wonder of their humanity was almost robbed from them.
I had friends who were banned from listening to certain music, going to certain places and following certain vocations because they were judged to be worldly. Sadly, I know many many people whose wonder of their humanity was stolen by faulty theology and Christian practice.
I was fortunate in that I never understood such thinking as I read the Gospels and attempted to follow Jesus. Yes, I was curtailed for many years but eventually I broke free to live in the fulness of our humanity that Jesus came to bring.
Recently, I preached on John chapter 2. It is Jesus first miracle. John calls them signs. Jesus turns water into wine. That is immediately a problem for many wonder of humanity stealers. Wine has often been described as the devil’s vomit. Alcohol is of the world.
Wherever such an idea came from, it was not the Bible. Jesus wine was the best wine. Grape juice doesn’t quite compete with real fermented wine. Believe me. I enjoy a glass. If this was not fermented wine then it was no miracle. Blasphemy. Hersey actually. My mother turned water into grape juice every Sunday lunchtime!
Don’t get me started on grape juice in communion. Not anywhere near a symbol of potent sin killing blood Christ. When Jesus used wine he knew what he was using and why.
John’s account of the miracle of the water turned into wine follows on from John’s great theological prologue in chapter 1. We are given that poetic description of incarnation - “the word became flesh.” We are then told “and moved in amongst us.”
Jesus did not separate himself from the world. He set up residence right in the heart of it. In chapter 2 in Cana of Galilee, he is doing just that. A wedding was a drink fest for a few days. Jesus didn’t remove himself . He was right there at the heart of it. He broke down any sacred spaces verse secular places debates right here.
Whatever “come ye out from among them” means it is not to negate the entire message of Jesus incarnation. As Dutch Reformed theologian Abraham Kuyper put it, “There is not one square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
The sign of water turned into wine is one of fulness. It was the best wine. It is also sign of abundance.
Grace is only mentioned four times in the Gospel According To John. All four mentions are in the first 17 verses of the book. Then, for the rest of John’s account of Jesus life, people get to see it, taste it, smell it, touch it, feel it.
Jesus did not come to rob us of the wonder of our humanity. God becoming human was about exactly the opposite. Jesus came to give us the fullest possible wonder of that humanity and give it to us abundantly. My mantra of John 10:10 - “I have come that you might have life and have it in all its fulness.”
Some might be concerned about this freedom I am advocating. They might accuse me of leading us all into sinful living. Absolutely not. Sin’s end is to rob us from the wonder of our humanity. Jesus end is to lavish that wonder upon us. It would be a sin, maybe the greatest sin, to in any way curtail the fulness of life that Jesus was born, died, resurrected and ascended to give us.
That Colin Davidson experienced a Christian journey that almost robbed him of the wonder his humanity is a terrible sin. God forgive us!
Discipleship, spiritual formation, following Jesus - whatever we wish to call it - should never be about robbing the wonder of our humanity from us but should instead have an end goal that sees us experience this human life in its most abundant wonder.