Somewhere along the way, we decided that the individual is the most important thing to focus on.
Lots can be said about why this is. And lots can be said about whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. I am not going to repeat those things here.
Not coincidentally, contemporary Christianity is awfully focused on the individual, too. I don’t think a Jesus-focused spirituality would neglect or ignore the individual. Jesus certainly valued individuals uniquely. Our mordern idolization of the individual though? It has played a hand in some pretty significant distortions.
For me, this comes into focus around the question of Easter: What does it mean that Jesus died and then was born again?
We spend all this energy on that question. And we should. The answer to that question is really what we should mean when we discuss the gospel (good news.)
The easy, modern, distorted answer goes something like this: The fact that Jesus died and then was born again means that when I die, I will be born again. If you have grabbed onto the right understanding, beliefs, and faith comitments, then you will get to join me.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s an amazing thing that death is not the end of us. But God does better.
There is nothing new in the ways we knuckleheaded people underestimate God. Eve and Adam underestimated God in the garden of Eden. They thought that the snake could better divine what was in their best interests than God could.
Roman-occupied Israelis, at the time of Jesus birth underestimated God, too. Many of the people at Jesus’ time thought that the best the messiah might achieve would be a political kind-of liberation.
And today? Today we expect God’s returning kingdom won’t accomplish much more than a Peter-Pan bus, conveying us to some distant destination, a sort-of eternal Disney Land off somewhere far away.
Over and over, we are promised something more. Jesus death and rebirth doesn’t only signify that we get a new life after this one. It signifies that the whole creation will be reborn; the whole order of things will be restored and redeemed.
That? That’s a pretty cool thing.