“If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”—Albert Einstein
The idea of Jesus has been absurd in every generation.
In the first century, doubt was the first response to Jesus. Kings did not come from Nazareth. No God would become a carpenter. A crucified man could not compete with Caesar. Dead men did not wake up from their sleep.
In the twenty first century, doubt remains a natural response to Him. No God has lived past the 20th century. No religion can make a case for peace. No book can tell the enlightened how to live. Dead men do not wake up from their sleep.
The idea of Jesus has been dangerous in every generation.
At the festival of dangerous ideas, author and journalist Peter Hitchens was asked what he thought was the most dangerous idea in the world. He said, “The most dangerous idea in human history and philosophy remains the belief that Jesus Christ was the son of God and rose from the dead, and that is the most dangerous idea you will ever encounter.”
“Why, dangerous?” he was asked.
“Because it alters the whole of human behaviour and all our responsibilities, it turns the universe from a meaningless chaos into a designed place in which there is justice and there is hope and therefore we all have a duty to discover the nature of that justice and work towards that hope. It alters us all. If you reject it, it alters us all as well. It is incredibly dangerous. It’s why so many people turn against it.”
In the first century, the idea of Jesus was dangerous to the powerful. An insecure king ordered infant genocide to protect his throne. A corrupt religious leadership called for crucifixion to preserve the establishment. A helpless governor washed his hands to safeguard his position. A public intellectual persecuted Christians to protect his tradition.
In the twenty first century, the idea of Jesus is a threat to injustice. It tells of a court that is higher than our courts. It reveals a King who is greater than our kings. It creates a people who live by a law that is higher than our laws. It promises a city tomorrow that is more creative, complete and cosmopolitan than any global city in the world today.
The idea of Jesus is true in every generation. It is not a true religion. It is a true story. I do not invite people to Jesus because He sells a new religion. I invite people to Jesus because He tells a different story.
I believe in the Bible because it tells a story that is an anti-dote to the newspaper. It is a story that makes an absurd first impression. But when reason meets faith, it is a story that turns out to be as dangerous as it is absurd and as hopeful as it is true.
The stories of the papers make me angry, bitter and cynical. They tell me that we are helpless and powerless and nothing will ever change. Women will be raped by taxi drivers. Children will be touched by priests. The rich will be unmoved by the poor. Shots will be fired to the glory of God.
The story of Jesus gives me purpose and hope. It tells me that we are not without help, not without power and nothing will remain the same. Women will be safe in every city. Children will be happy in every home. The nations will be moved by compassion. Songs will be sung to the glory of God.
The idea of Jesus is rooted in history
When former CNN television host Larry King was asked “If you could select any one person across all of history to interview, who would it be?”
Mr. King’s answer was that he would like to interview Jesus Christ. When the questioner followed with, “And what would you like to ask him?” King replied, “I would like to ask him if he was indeed virgin-born. The answer to that question would define history for me.”
This is the absurdity and the danger of hope, that if Jesus was born of a virgin and rose from the dead, history will go the way of God.
At Christmas, we do not celebrate the birth of a new religion. We remember that God became one of us so that we can become one with Him. We remember that the King we all want has arrived but not yet in His glory; the world we all want has come but not yet in its fullness.
At Christmas, we remember that there is a story being whispered into our hearts that is more attractive than the stories we hear in the world. We remember that the story of our lives can be given life when they are married to what God is writing in history.
At Christmas, we remember that it does not matter whether an idea appears to be absurd or turns out to be dangerous.
It only matters whether it is true.
Image Credit: Joey Gannon