Wednesday, February 27, 2008

John's Gospel

John begins his gospel with a revolution in human thought about God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1). In one simple sentence John introduces the hitherto unthinkable idea that within the very being of God there is relationship. The Jews were taught that the Lord their God is one (DT 6:4). The Greeks believed that while the being of God was unknowable, it was nonetheless clearly indivisible, simple, incapable of relationality. As a Jew, John knew well the opening declaration of the sacred Scriptures: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (GEN 1:1) But John had met Jesus, and “beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten from the Father” (1:14). So John, while not disagreeing with his Jewish heritage, nevertheless could not possibly be silent about what he has seen and heard and experienced in Jesus Christ, the Father’s eternal Son (see IJN 1:1-3). While John wholeheartedly agrees with the Jews that God created the heavens and the earth; he is determined to fill in the blanks, so to speak, about the deepest truth of the Creator God.

That the Word was with God means not simply that the Word and God were together, but that they were face to face. This is not a peripheral point for John. It is fundamental. The beautiful imagery of the Son being “in the bosom of the Father” (1:18), which John uses to close his famous prologue, is his way of emphasizing that the Father-Son relationship is as critical as it is non-negotiable. He begins and ends his introduction to his gospel with relationship within the being of God.

From the first word throughout his gospel, John’s portrait of Jesus is that he is the Father’s Son who lives in direct, intimate, free-flowing intimacy with his Father. “For the Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hands” (3:35) “Truly, truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing…” (5:19-20). For John, so personal, so real, so beautifully intimate is this relationship and fellowship between the Father and the Son that his imagination is stretched to the breaking point to describe it. Any description of this relationship shy of utter oneness betrays its intimacy and depth. “I and the Father are one” (10:30). “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (14:9). Yet clearly the Father and Son remain distinct persons.

Why is it so important for John that Jesus is the Father’s only Son and lives in such oneness and shared life with the Father? Because this relationship is the heart of John’s vision of the gospel itself. This Son, who dwells in the bosom of the Father from all eternity, sharing all things with him in the Holy Spirit, became flesh and dwells among us. For John, Jesus himself is the good news. He has crossed all worlds to be with us and to give us a place in nothing less that his own divine life, so that we could know his Father with him and share in his anointing in the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

What is Sin?

As a child, I was taught the catechism’s definition of sin: “Sin is any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God.” Depending upon what is meant by “the law of God,” this is not a bad definition, as it addresses wrong doing and failing to do right. Of course, by “the law of God,” the catechism meant the ten commandments. But what if took “the law of God” to mean “the truth of God in Jesus”? Sin would then be defined, not legally, but Christologically, as “any want of conformity unto or transgression of the truth of God in Jesus.” And who is Jesus? He is the Father’s Son, the One anointed in the Holy Spirit, and the One in and through and by and for whom all things were created and are sustained, and have been reconciled. In the very existence of Jesus himself, the Father, the Holy Spirit, the human race, and creation are not separated, but bound together in relationship. Jesus is the relationship. Sin is any want of conformity unto or transgression of the truth that we are included in Jesus Christ, and in his relationship with his Father, and in his anointing in the Holy Spirit, and in his relationship with the human race, and in his relationship with all creation.

In my last blog I told the story of my son and his buddy in our den, and how my son’s buddy got to experience the relationship my son has with me. That is both a picture of the gospel itself (we are included in Jesus’ relationship with his Father) and a way of helping us see what sin is all about. Suppose that in the midst of our playing, my son’s buddy suddenly stopped, got up and backed away. He was included in our relationship. My son’s freedom and at-homeness with me, our laughter and fellowship were all being shared with his buddy. He felt and tasted and experienced our life together. But then he suddenly backed away, believing that it was not the truth, that he did not belong, that he was not included. And suppose he then began to think through how to have his own relationship with me. Perhaps he could imitate my son and his relationship with me. Perhaps he could make up some new rules, and impose them on me and my relationship with my son. I think this is what sin is all about. We ignore and refuse to believe that we are included in Jesus’ own relationship with his Father. Then in our darkness we invent our own way of relationship, and then impose them on Jesus and his Father, the Holy Spirit and everyone else in the universe. Essentially sin is insisting that Jesus is wrong and that he needs to repent and believe in us. Sin is insisting that Jesus change his view of his Father, change his view of his relationship with us and with all creation, and come believe in us, and join us in our terrible confusion.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Heart of the Gospel

Thirteen or so years ago my son (then 8) and one of his buddies quietly peered around the door to make sure I was in the room. Sitting on the couch in our den, I was sorting through junk mail, getting ready to watch a football game. They were decked out in camouflage, complete with face paint, plastic guns, helmets, the whole nine yards. Before I was paying attention, two camouflage blurs were flying through the air at me. They landed on the couch, grabbed me and we fell off the couch in a mock fight. We ended up in a ball of laughter on the floor.

Somewhere in the midst of the moment, I felt the Lord telling me to pay careful attention to what was happening. But I didn’t quite get it. What’s the big deal, I thought, about a dad and his son and buddy playing around on the floor on a Saturday afternoon. It took me a while before I got the point, and the point, when I finally saw it, was one of the most beautiful and powerful revelations ever given to me.

The truth is, I did not know my son’s buddy at all. We had never met. I had never even seen him. And if you take my son out of the picture for a moment, and see this unknown boy walk into my den alone, the last thing you would imagine is that he would fly through the air and engage me in play. Presumably, he would have known that I was Mr. Kruger, but there were far too many unknowns for him to approach me with such familiarity. But my son was there, and he knew that I loved him, that he was one of the apples of my eye, and, perhaps, more important, that I liked him. So in the freedom of my love and affection and delight, he did the most natural thing in the world—fly into my arms to play. And his buddy was right there with him. And that was the miracle. I saw my son’s knowledge of my heart, and my son’s relationship with me, and my son’s freedom with me make their way into his friend’s heart—and his buddy got to share in them, to taste and feel and experience my son’s life with me. He played in it with us. It was all so simple, but there it was, a living parable of the gospel itself.

This story is used in both of my books, The Secret and Home, both available as free downloads on our web site (

Friday, February 1, 2008

Jesus and Our Pain

Driving down a country road, I found myself stuck behind a school bus. It stopped what seemed to me to be every two feet. Once it stopped three times in quick succession. I noticed a young girl get off the bus and run down the tree-lined path to her house. Something was obviously wrong. I looked down the path and saw an older woman sitting on the front porch. She rose to embrace her grandchild. There was something extraordinary about it, not your normal, everyday, ‘how was school today?’ hug.

As the bus moved on, I followed, but could not help but thinking about the girl and her grandmother’s embrace. The young girl was devastated, but her grandmother noticed her pain before her first step off the bus. Here was a wise woman, a veteran of life, of wars within and without, noticing, identifying and rising to meet her brokenhearted granddaughter. Sobbing, the young girl fell into the comfort of her grandmother's world.

I found myself thinking about the grandmother’s comfort. I began to see layers and nuances. There was comfort for the girl in the fact that someone was there, someone who cared, someone who discerned what was happening. Then there was the comfort that came from being in the arms of someone who had been there, someone who had experienced the very same pain, and survived to live another day, many years in fact. The child felt the grandmother’s experience and hope. “Yes this hurts. Yes this is painful. Yes it feels like the world is ending. But it is not. I’ve been there child.”

The grandmother remembered what it was like to be brokenhearted. She identified, by way of her own experience, with the pain of her granddaughter. But the real comfort was not by way of remembering, but by the way the grandchild’s pain was readily perceived, embraced, received, known, and felt by her grandmother. She shared in her granddauther's hurt, and in tasting and feeling and experiencing her granddaughter’s pain as her own, her own experience and hope and confidence made its way, rather invisibly, into her granddaughter’s soul.

I think this is the way Jesus relates to us. He remembers the pain of personal rejection, the trauma of being ignored, ridiculed and insulted by the people he loved. And he can identify with us in our pain by way of his own memories. But his relation to us is so much deeper than through his memory. Jesus meets us, accepts us and embraces us in our hurt. He feels it with us. He tastes the salt of our tears. Our pain rubs off on him and he experiences it with us. Yet he does not meet us as one who has no hope, no assurance, no freedom in himself. Like the grandmother, Jesus meets us and embraces us as the one who knows that our trauma is not the end of the world. He meets us where we are, but in his own, hard-won hope and confidence and peace. And as he meets us, Jesus’ own inner world rubs off on us. His faith, his freedom, his joy, his knowledge of his Father’s passionate love touch our hurting souls.

These encounters or revelations speak volumes: “I am not watching you from a distance. I am here with you. I feel your hurt and I am sharing my heart with you. I do not bring sadness to you or fear or hopelessness. I bring my own knowledge of my Father’s heart. Rest in me and my experience. I am sharing my way of seeing and thinking, my feelings, and my Spirit with you. Now you have a choice. Choose my inner world. Choose my mind, my understanding of my Father. Choose to walk with me in my Spirit.”

For more about this Jesus, see my book, Across All Worlds: Jesus Inside Our Darkness.