We believe in God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, fully God and fully human, who proclaimed the rule of God, lived a sinless life, died on the cross as payment for our sins, rose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven, and reigns as Lord of all.
Life is hard sometimes. Over the past year many people have walked through painful experiences. A marriage that was supposed to be “happily ever after” is now broken and falling to pieces. A young person is rejected and abused by their parents, the very ones who were to show them unconditional love. A person is told by a doctor to get their life in order because at best they have months left to live. Parents burying their children. These are just a few of the “big” ones. There are people who are lonely, depressed, hating their jobs, struggling in friendships … and on and on. Life is hard.
Does our confession of faith help when life is hard? For some this is a ridiculous question. “Of course not”, they would reply. Well, one may never say that out loud but it may be thought. The confession of faith can feel like something crafted by a few academics in a stuffy library far removed from real life. Sure, the confession of faith is important but it may seem so abstract. We agree with it but secretly we believe that it is not something that actually matters when facing the pain of life. Yet, in reality, this is when our confession of faith matters most. Because when we face the broken pieces of life we often ask questions about God. Where is God? What is He doing? Who is He? These are questions that our confession of faith wrestles with. And this is what makes our confession of faith important for life.
Take our confession regarding Jesus. We declare that Jesus is “fully God and fully human”. Does this matter when life is difficult and painful? Absolutely.
“Fully God”. There is a lot of debate about who Jesus is in our world today. There are many who argue that Jesus was just a good moral teacher. Some argue that Jesus was only a mighty prophet. Others argue that Jesus never lived or that he was a fool who got himself killed by the Roman government or that he was married and had kids… The world has many opinions about who Jesus is. At times the church is not much better actually. I have come across biker Jesus, hippy Jesus, poor Jesus, rich Jesus, traditional Jesus, liberal Jesus, Mennonite Jesus… It seems that we have been making Jesus in our own image for some time. We keep wanting Jesus to be just like us. We want him to like the things we like and hate the things that we hate. But we declare that Jesus is fully God. And while Jesus being fully God means all sorts of things it surely means that in a very real sense he is not like us. And this is good news.
When we experience brokenness and pain we do not need someone like us, we need God. A good moral teacher might give good advice but that is not what we need when we suffer. We need power, grace, peace, strength from outside of ourselves. And we need someone who will entice and empower us to be more than we are. If we are left on our own when we suffer we may become bitter, angry, miserable and whiny. We need Jesus because he is fully God. Jesus has the power and authority to help us. We are talking about Jesus being the God of the Bible. The
creator, the one who heard the Israelites cry out in slavery and who delivers them from a powerful empire, the one who heals, casts out demons, leads, empowers. Jesus is God. Jesus calls us to become better than we are right now. He transforms us so that we can be filled with grace, mercy, truth and love. Jesus being fully God is not some dry, dusty doctrine. This is something to cling to in our brokenness.
“Fully human”. We are not abandoned. This is one of the great truths of the bible. God did not turn his back on us. Throughout the entire bible this is repeated and emphasized. The greatest proof of this is Jesus. God decided to become human. He did not sit up in heaven removed from pain and suffering. Instead he took on flesh and blood. The commentary that accompanies our confession of faith states, “God the Son [Jesus] became fully human to identify with a lost and dying world.” Jesus, who is “God from all eternity”, suffered and died as a human. This is a great source of comfort in our pain and suffering. Jesus understands. He was tempted, rejected, and betrayed. In prayer we come to one who is familiar with suffering.
There have been times when I have been tempted to sanitize my prayers. What I mean is that I pretend that I am not in pain and suffering. I slap on a smile and fake that everything is wonderful. But then I remember Jesus. Jesus, who when he prayed in the garden was “deeply distressed and troubled” (Mark 14:33) and said “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:34). We don’t need to fake it for Jesus, he was fully human. He knows what it means to suffer. It is because Jesus is “fully human” that he is our source of comfort and strength.
It is when life is hard that the confession of faith matters most. Because it reminds us of what we believe in the midst of our questions, insecurities and fears.
Ben Klassen is the Teaching Pastor at Altona EMM Church in Manitoba. He and his wife Cindy are kept busy by their three daughters.
EMMC Confession of Faith
Part 5 of 12-part series
January / February 2015 The Recorder