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Consent vs. Control

Its been a while since I have felt compelled to post my thoughts. Perhaps it was the wonderful anticipation of a new granddaughter, Caroline Elizabeth born April 6th, who has now thankfully and joyfully diluted the acidic nausea stemming from the political disgust of late.

However, the longer I journey in relative silence, the greater the internal groan of my growing awareness: neither my experience of “church” nor the faux politics of our erring democracy can any longer hold sufficient “water” to quench my thirst for righteousness, peace, justice and joy.

Just when I had some sense that the Institutional Church had heard the cry of the Body of Christ, I witness another blatant disregard for the Spirit of Christ. As for political leadership, we seem to be settling for a “lesser of two evils” scenario. God help us, as the “church” seems to have now fully bought into this mockery of democracy as well!

Meanwhile the majority cry out for a leader, and though they may not recognize it, a true revelation of their Creator!

Our country is at a critical tipping point, not unlike the colonies just before the Revolutionary War. Yes, revolution could be in the mix in days to come!

Minimally there seems a need for revamping of the two party system as noted in a recent editorial by Eliot Cohen. “Even if a third candidacy still yielded a Clinton victory, it would be worthwhile. It would, first, deny the Clinton campaign the illusion of a mandate from American voters who would have, en masse, turned out to reject Trump.” 1

Perhaps transformation is closer than we think (a moment of optimism needed here!)

Why all this remorse? Perhaps it also stems in part from a recent experience upon the passing of my father in law April 15. His request for family members to be a part of his funeral met with a less than amicable response from the denominational leadership of the church he had supported for 70 years. Without saying much more, his funeral of necessity was held in the local mortuary without any representation of the leadership from the small church he had devoted his life to, nor any support thus far from the seminaries that he had helped fund. This experience provided further insight as to where men are capable of taking religion in the name of the Gospel!

During that funeral service I was privileged to share observations of this dear man’s life. I had witnessed first hand over the forty plus years of his journey with Christ. A journey that rescued him from a very legalistic rules-based religion, and afforded a true relationship with Jesus. Not only had his work-style changed (though sainthood is not where I am going here), but his very personality had morphed from a man who understood control and success, to a Christ-follower fully willing to consent to the will of His Father.

Much of my text for his Eulogy came from a book by Bradley Jersak, A More Christlike God.2

One statement in particular summed up the book’s treatise:“True Christianity is about a different kind of kingdom, a strange kind of King! A far better image of God than religion has provided us.”

He goes on to clarify, “Jesus surely demonstrated a God fully in control, over disease, demons, even which side of the boat fish would bite! His disciples even declared that never had they met a man that even the winds and the waves obeyed! Yet, his real message was consent over control, even to death on the cross!”

Jersak in his book goes so far as to declare that our fall was necessary for us to fully grasp this image, “one who is fully in control, yet consents to be a part of our suffering. His truest image is mercy and a love that endures forever.”

“Consent then, like the cross, encompasses love, surrender, submission, invitation, hospitality and receptivity to love. Christ consents, yields, submits to the Father, to humility to servant hood and to death. Beautifully, mercifully, powerfully-even ironically- through the cross.”

This morning as I read Isaiah’s prophetic messianic references, and a plea to the people of his day, I was reminded of Jerzak’s theology of consent over control. “Who has believed our message” Isaiah cries out. He goes on in Chapter 53:1-10 to describe in detail the remarkable life and death of a Jesus yet to be born.

However, wedged between verses 11-12, he describes what I believe to be the joint reward for those who consent to follow this suffering Christ:

“Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.” Is. 53:11-12a NIV.

Unlike fallen humanity, “rather than control or coerce, God in Christ cares and consents to suffer with us and for us. We should never concede to the false image of a lame duck dad who sits by silently, watching his kids getting beaten by a bully. Instead, we look to the true image of the cruciform-Christ Himself- the One who comes down to suffer and die with us in order that we might overcome affliction, defeat death and raised us up to live and reign with him.”

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