Jesus Ruins the Cause

 
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Jesus has a way of ruining the cause. Whatever we pin our hopes on, whatever we convince ourselves is going to win us the future or stave off defeat, at least for a while, Jesus has a way of ruining. Christians ought to be the least ideological of all people, because Jesus is the death of ideology, as He is the death of us—a blessed death. Jesus has a way of ruining the cause, and we should be thankful for that.

Ideology has indeed accomplished some impressive things in history, but it’s also left a frightful wake. When united with one purpose in mind (as we learned at the Tower of Babel), humans have great potential. Remember, though, that humans are now fallen creatures, corrupted, inwardly-turned, short-sighted and self-serving, and that potential becomes less than encouraging. The twentieth century was rife with ideology. We’re still recovering from it. Perhaps we never will before Jesus returns.

Christ has come to put to death our hopes, to end them in His death, and yet even we Christians are prone to turning here and there and everywhere for hope as if we had none. We have been crucified with Christ, crucified to such naïve desires and false hopes, and yet the old Adam is a hopeful creature, running from one empty promise to another, eager for any promise but the one that gives life.

Jesus has a way of ruining the cause, and we need Him to do just that. From political parties to sports teams, we know all too well how quickly we can ruin a good thing, turning a temporal allegiance into a spiritual one. A lost election can bring us to despair, a failed season to melancholy. We become like a people with no joy. Or more dangerously, our party or team wins, and we become a people with great joy, but the wrong type joy. We sink our claws in at those moments, desperate not to lose what we think we’ve gained, and in so doing, we lose our souls.

From political parties to sports teams, we know all too well how quickly we can ruin a good thing, turning a temporal allegiance into a spiritual one
— Wade Johnston

Jesus has a way of ruining the cause. It’s why He was put to death, after all. It was better that one man should die than the cause be disturbed, and so they crucified Him, and we haven’t stopped since. How often hasn’t Jesus seemed the ruin of the church, and so He’s been set aside, crucified again, so to speak, in order to avoid such disaster—to stave off the death of that which we hold dear? One need not listen for too long to what is heard from pulpits and altars to recognize this. You need not look too far to see how Christ might decorate a chancel in art but doesn’t enliven it through His preaching and sacraments, because, well, the cause beckons. There’s a culture to save, a program to begin, a budget to meet, political clout to maintain. And Jesus would only ruin the cause.

This shows up in how we do theology. We are fine with a Jesus confined to past deeds and limited by metaphysical speculation, a Jesus kept at a distance, but we get nervous if He draws too close, because that Jesus kills and raises, that Jesus ends things to begin them anew, that Jesus ruins the cause, whatever it may be. Absolution becomes a dangerous thing.

I pray Jesus ruins your cause. I pray He ruins mine. I pray that Jesus is the death of us, because it’s only through dying in Him and in His death that we have true life and a cause greater than our false hopes, political scorecards, and cultural maneuverings. In Him, dead and raised, we can be less concerned with causes and more concerned with neighbors, less concerned with the big picture and more present in the actual lives of those among whom He’s placed us in our vocations.

In Him, dead and raised, we can be less concerned with causes and more concerned with neighbors.
— Wade Johnston

Jesus has a way of ruining causes and, as much as my flesh hates it, I pray He never stops. I pray  He puts flesh on my causes and puts my flesh to death daily in my Baptism, where His death and resurrection were made mine.

Jesus is the death of ideology. Ideology is capable of great things, and very frightening things, but ideology never saved anyone. Only a person did that, and in this case, a person who came for all people, and died our death to be our life. Jesus ruined the cause and, in turn, has become the cause of our salvation, our true hope and real life, our antidote to despair, and our ongoing absolution. He sets us free from the lure of false promises, pressing our beggarly fingers deeper and deeper into His promise which can never fail, because He is no liar and never will be. Jesus ruins the cause, and that’s exactly what we need.

Dr. Wade Johnston has degrees from Martin Luther College, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Central Michigan University, and Erasmus University Rotterdam. He serves as assistant professor of theology at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and served for ten years in parish ministry in Saginaw, Michigan.




 

 

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