Person, not Idea
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.
- 1 John 1:1
Whether all of this talk about Jesus is really real or not … well … that really matters. You might find comfort or inspiration in the story of Jesus. You might enjoy his teaching or appreciate the communities that come into existence in his presence. But, according to John, all of this is based in history. And that really matters.
John tags the senses here at the start of his letter: hearing, seeing, touching. And he applies these concrete senses to a cosmic subject: that which was from the beginning, the Word of life.
Often in our walk with Jesus we will have moments when he feels distant or ephemeral. We can begin to operate as if he’s an inspiring idea rather than a real person. We might not even notice we’re doing this.
But John insists that Jesus is a real person who can be heard and seen and touched. Ideas easily intertwine with other ideas. The ethical imperatives of Jesus blend smoothly with your political ideology. The theological revelations Jesus offers get subsumed into your latent philosophical background programming. And if you have no idea what we’re talking about when we say “your latent philosophical background programming” then this teaching is all the more important for you.
A co-opted Jesus is not Jesus. He doesn’t work for our political or philosophical schemes. He stands on his own feet. Mash him together with the rest of that and you’ll lose him altogether.
Our best response to this human tendency to turn Jesus into an idea is to turn to him in prayer. Prayer defends our theology. Prayer launches us into obedience. You don’t pray to an idea. You pray to a person.
Take a few moments today and examine your prayer life. What do you see? What do you hear when you pray? What themes does your conversation with Jesus tend to touch?