A Terrible Monday Meets A Terrible Friday

Apr 7, 2023 by David Fowler

A Terrible Monday Meets A Terrible Friday
The shooting that took place last Monday at Covenant School was terrible on multiple levels. In response, boisterous crowds gathered at the Capitol to demand gun control. Ted Cruz wanted to know if the FBI was going to label the shooting a hate crime. Many surrounded the White House’s Transgender Day of Visibility proclamation with violent rhetoric. Some Christians complained about being or becoming “targets” of violence. I believe these events are a microcosm of events leading up to and including the terrible events of Good Friday, the day of Jesus’s crucifixion. But it was in a way I had never considered. 
What tied these events together for me was Luke’s record of Jesus’s reaction as he rode a donkey into Jerusalem several days before his crucifixion, what is celebrated as Palm Sunday: “Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it,saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for peace!’” (Luke 19:41-42)
I suspect we all want peace. The transgender community feels attacked and increasingly excluded from the larger community. Others feel increasingly attacked by the transgender movement and feel like they are being forced into a kind of community they reject as true to a given nature as male and female. It seems there can be no peace unless one conquers the other.
But what things make for peace where one side squashing the other—by law[1] or violence—seems to be the only solution?

The Good Friday Story I Had Never Considered

On the (Good) Friday when the Temple Guards, along with others, come to arrest Jesus, Peter pulls out his sword, takes a swing at the head of the High Priest’s servant, and cuts off his ear. 
The response of Jesus pertinent to the Gentiles to whom Luke is writing says nothing about the event fulfilling Old Testament prophecy. It would have little meaning to a Gentile. This is what Luke records:
But Jesus answered and said, “Permit even this.” And He touched his ear and healed him.
Then Jesus said to the chief priests, captains of the temple, and the elders who had come to Him, "Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness." (Luke 22:51-53) 
The religious community leaders wanted Jesus dead because he “spoke . . . against them” (Luke 20:19). They hated that “the world has gone after Him” (John 12:19). Jesus was a threat to their power in the Jewish community, and they knew it. 
Peter, of a similar spirit, wants to fight with a sword, because he was “for” Jesus and those who came to arrest him were “against” Jesus.
It is a story about rivalry and power, and that narrative never brings about peace, only clashes. But I saw something that was even more than that. 

Why We Must Have Rivals 

In other stories about Jesus, we learn that the Pharisees needed persons lesser than them—the fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes, and the like who were following Jesus—the “bad” people who were unlike them—to feel good about themselves, to feel justified.
That’s the point of Jesus’s parable about the publican and the Pharisee praying in the Temple. The former knew he was a “sinner” before God and prayed for mercy. The Pharisee, whose prayer consisted of reciting aloud his good deeds, was “praying with himself” according to Jesus (Luke 18:11).  
That had to be a shock! Jesus was turning the tables on everyone about what righteousness and justification are: Jesus said the publican went home justified, not the Pharisee. 

What Makes For Peace?

The Pharisaical practice of seeing our goodness and righteousness in comparison to others—the transgendered community vis-à-vis the Christian community or vice versa—and as a means of justifying ourselves does not make for peace. It breeds rivalry, and rivalry requires a winner, which requires the power needed to win.
So, I began to wonder what might happen if a group of transgendered persons went to a local Christian church on Easter Sunday just to listen. 
Would Jesus, if in the pulpit, ask all those present, “Do you know the things that make for peace?”

Getting Below the Surface of Transgenderism

I have begun to believe the transgender community is both embracing and rebelling against the worldview of Richard Dawkins that dominates our thinking today—that matter is all there is. (See last week’s commentary.)
If there is no God and all we are is stuff, then we can manipulate stuff. Changing one’s body is just part of the change Dawkins’s evolution preaches. 
There can be no meaning to the stuff, because meaning is a metaphysical issue about which Dawkins’s evolution can say nothing meaningful. And that’s the problem. 
Dawkins’s evolution has no room for “us.” A transgendered person knows we are not just concatenations of atoms and molecules suffused with energy. He or she knows we must have subjective (personal) meaning. 
But what then does the transgender person do with the stuff they are made of, the objective part of themselves?
Could it be that the transgendered person was feeling this disjunction pressing in, and concluded that he or she must, in a certain sense, be born again to bring congruence to the subject that is who they are and the object (body) that is theirs?

How Do Good Friday and Easter Apply?

Christians have the true story of our existence—a triune God created all things, not as an emanation of Himself, but of a different essence or nature that reveals the glory of who He is. 
But people are special. They alone are made in God’s image. Though material beings and thereby not God who is a spiritual being, we are spiritual beings.
That story speaks to what I believe the transgender community is reacting to—the loss of a subjective self in a world that says we are nothing but mere matter. They know that can’t be true.
Christians know we are more than stuff and that the disjunction between our natural appetites (our body) and our spirit is real. It is rightly called a “war.”
But professing Christians cannot give as the answer to this disjunction, “You need to behave differently,” “You need to be better,” or “You need to be more like us,” because that is not the answer Jesus is or gave. That, too, is what I think transgendered persons are rebelling against when it comes to Christians: exhortations to do better or be better or just think differently don’t work for most of us.
What we all need is to be born again, but in a real and substantial way that is not the Gnosticism (special, secret knowledge) that grips much of evangelicalism and leads to mysticism. Timothy Leary’s advocacy of a better life thought drugs can give us an “experience” if that’s all we need, even an out of body one.
What we all need, God Himself gives: a death to rivalry and to a self-justification and self-righteousness grounded in comparing ourselves to others, and a new life. 
The death we need is given to us by God who joins Himself in the person of His Son to our humanity in the person of the crucified man, Jesus. And in the resurrection of the human named Jesus and in our union with Him by a work of His Holy Spirit, God provides humanity the new life that is needed.
The gospel is not a method for how to escape Hell and go to Heaven. Jesus is the gospel. “He himself is our peace,” with God (Romans 5:1) and with rival factions (Ephesians 2:14).
That is good news. I, for one, need to hear it again and again.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man, Matthew 5:9

[1] I am not suggesting that law has no place in the discussion, but law according to the Bible never makes anyone good or creates the good. Law stirs up our antagonism against God (Romans 7:7-10). To think law can make us good or create the good is to use law unlawfully (1 Timothy 1:8, “But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully.”). 

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