COVENANTAL CRISES VII:
The Painful Journey
Just ten days after Jesus ascended to heaven, “the day of Pentecost was fully come, . . . [and the disciples] were all with one accord in one place. . . . [S]uddenly . . . they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues . . . ” (Acts 2:1, 2, 4). Thousands of pilgrims had already gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost, and “they were all amazed and marvelled” that the Galilean disciples were able to communicate to every tongue and people (Acts 2:7). This was God’s wonderful gift designed to quickly spread the good news of salvation to the entire world.
The Gift Abused
Tragically, however, followers of Jesus began to regard this gift as their own possession and a symbol of their exalted status before God, humanity and all Creation. As the years passed, many who claimed to follow the Savior began to assume hierarchical status as priests and bishops. Later, “church fathers” and ecclesiastical councils claimed that just as God had become human, so at least some humans would ultimately become “God.”1
Nearly twenty centuries have passed, and still Christians have largely failed to repudiate these arrogant assumptions. Rather, many claiming to be followers of Christ have led inquisitions, crusades, holocausts and genocides against so-called “unbelievers.” As a result, untold millions of humble and peaceful human beings have been brutally tortured and slaughtered. Today, in our postmodern age, the world is threatened by religious fundamentalists planning to launch the final battle of Armageddon in order to eliminate their so-called “opponents,” terminate Creation, and liberate their own supposed “divinity.”2
“A Cloud of Witnesses”
It is in this critical moment that we need to remind ourselves that the Risen One is already present (Matthew 28:20) and that he will soon peacefully appear (parousia) (Acts 1:11), raise those who have died (Matthew 25:31, 32; John 12:32; 1 Corinthians 15:22; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17), convene the judgment (John 5:22, 27; 12:31; Hebrews 12:23), and transform humanity and all Creation into his own likeness (2 Timothy 4:8; 2 Peter 3:13; 1 John 3:2). Thus, if we believe that God became human in order that mankind might become truly human, it is surely appropriate to accept his divine gifts — such as faith, hope, love and compassion — share them with “others,” and return them to God himself.
What a wonderful blessing and encouragement to surround the One already present with “a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) who have rejected command, possession and power3 and who are not only willing but delighted to receive the covenantal God’s attributes as gifts to be shared!4 Let us therefore rejoice, for “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23, emphasis supplied).
- See Georgios I. Mantzardis, The Deification of Man (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984). See also “Out of Egypt V: The Open Fracture,” Outlook (May 2011). (go back)
- See Harold Bloom, The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992). See also “The Gospel for the Postmodern World V: The Gift Abused,” Outlook (March 2008); “World in Crisis,” Outlook (October 2008); “The Divine Struggle for ‘I’ and ‘Thou’ IX: ‘I AM’ with ‘You,’” Outlook (June 2010). (go back)
- See “The Gospel for the PostmodernWorld III: The ‘Other Side’ of God,” Outlook (January 2008); “The Divine Struggle for ‘I’ and ‘Thou’ III: Command,” Outlook (December 2009); “The Divine Struggle for ‘I’ and ‘Thou’ IV: Possession,” Outlook (January 2010); “The Divine Struggle for ‘I’ and ‘Thou’ VI: Empowerment,” Outlook (March 2010). (go back)
- See “The Gospel for the Postmodern World VIII: Returning the Gifts,” Outlook (June 2008); “Called to Be Witnesses,” Outlook (July 2008). (go back)