Monday, June 03, 2013

An Unavoidable Question for Those Who "Believe" in Jesus

"Do you love me?" - Jesus

It might be said that age can soften one's heart.

Stanley Hauerwas has evoked various emotions and reactions out of me in the past. I know that he often angers people. Perhaps "anger" is a strong word here. I at least know that his ways - not the least of which includes his vernacular - often perturb people, and some people for whom I have great respect. I remember my first interaction with him while in seminary. He sure upset me. And from time-to-time, Uncle Stanley has continued to mess with my heart-strings, often seemingly choosing a knife over a guitar pick.

But I don't remember him making me cry before until today. He apparently preached this sermon at the Closing Convocation of 2013 at Duke Divinity School, where he has taught for many years. He's mostly retired from teaching and is obviously in his later years (he wrote a memoir, after all). It's not the first time that I've noticed an older dude softening with age. So this sermon is perhaps most appropriate for the setting of a seminary commencement, but anyone who is in ministry would benefit from it (if you follow Jesus, that's you).

I read it first, but I also found it on YouTube.

Some highlights:
As usual, I wouldn't have thought to use some of the images that Uncle Stanley does. I have run from "fall in love with Jesus" like the plague. But he again deals with it in such a succinct and appropriate way that it works:
"Falling in love has the frightening effect of one's losing control of oneself, with the result that you end up making one disastrous decision after another. So along the way, we develop self-protective strategies to avoid the costs if we are again tempted to fall in love."

Indeed. And falling in love with all other humans in history has most often provided the burden of proof that humans suck. Protective strategies have proven to be necessary. If nothing else, at least to protect me from me.

...which is what answering Jesus' question so difficult.
"I suspect I am more ready to believe in Jesus than I am to love him. I am, after all, a theologian." as much as I like to talk about having been freed from modernity, there is still an amateur mathematician making all sorts of counterarguments and "Yeah buts" to pretty much evertying. I still prefer things to work out nicely. And so love as the result of faith is difficult. Love is messy. It doesn't lend itself well to reason.

And surely someones out there will want to counter to Hauerwas with, "But to believe in Jesus is to love Jesus." Yes, but you're missing the point (again, see this post on faithing).
"...the ministry is a playground of manipulative games derived from distrust and envy that too often produces lives of destructive self-hate."
OUCH, Stanley. Stop being right.
"But be careful. Please note I am not recommending that you 'try' to love Jesus. 'Trying' can be an indication of our continuing attempt to love Jesus on our own terms..."
Yes. Hence, the notion of "falling" in love. Falls are generally things that you cannot control.

Anyway, I'm about to quote the whole sermon. I'll leave the rest to your own reading or viewing.

I've labelled this a sabbatical post because I hope to return to it a few times this summer.

More honestly than I've been in a while here on this blog:
I need a deeper love for Christ. I don't mean this in some kind of backwardly humble way along the lines of, "We all need a little more Jesus." Rather, I am longing for a restoration of a strong daily relationship with Jesus the Christ. There's never a reason to wait around for such a thing to come about. But I confess that I am greatly looking forward to this sabbatical this summer as a long and intensive opportunity to fall in love with Jesus.

So help me, God.

1 comment:


    The teaching that men do not have free-will evolved from the false doctrine that men are saved by grace alone. There is not one place in the Bible that has grace and alone in the same sentence. If in fact men are saved by grace alone and have no free-will, there are many things that would be true.

    If men have no free-will, then God would have to force men to have faith so they could be saved.

    If men have no free-will, then God would have to force men to repent.

    If men have no free-will, then God would have to force men to confess Jesus as the Christ.

    If men have no free-will, then God would have to force men to be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins.

    If men have no free-will, then God would be responsible for all of the sins of mankind.

    If men have no free-will, why did the men on the Day of Pentecost ask "Brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37)

    If men have no free-will, then why did the jailer ask Paul and Silas, "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30)

    If men have no free-will, then why did Saul ask, "What shall I do Lord?" (Acts 22:10)

    Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bring salvation to all men.

    God's grace is available to all men. Grace is not forced nor is it denied to any man. MEN HAVE FREE-WILL!