Quite some people have the idea that Christian faith is a matter of the past. Christmas would confirm this, for we are celebrating the day of Jesus’ birth some 2000 years ago. New atheism translates to a life vision that we definitely have to say farewell to God. But whoever is celebrating Christmas the right way, is looking towards the future; Jesus coming in majesty. This also means we’re in a heap of trouble. Because Jesus’ coming means judgment, a world crisis unknown before. And yet this crisis has unexpectedly come so close.
First of all let’s see how we take cover against an unwanted judgment day. We have developed several defense mechanisms. The first is impotence with unwillingness. This mechanism operated quite in public quite recently. For two years the journalist Joris Luyendijk spoke with all kinds of people in the City, Britain’s financial heart in London. These conversations could be followed on the website of the Guardian. Joris’ conclusion was crystal clear. Because nothing has changed substantially, there is a more radical crisis coming than the crisis of 2008. The reactions were striking. Luyendijk may be right, that was the tenor – no one thinks he’s stupid – but what to do with this conclusion? An even bigger crisis will be so severe that your sense of impotence will win over any alarm bells. Even more: Europe is seeing a little light at the end of the tunnel of the current crisis. You don’t want to hear of an future one; you shut off those signs. This is a characteristic way of dealing with the prospect of future crises. Then what to do with a day of fiery crisis that everything and anything done will come to light (2 Peter 3:10)? Such judgment is the utmost incredible, undesirable for us.
There is another defense mechanism with which we try to keep off the crisis of the coming of Jesus. It’s even better, because Christians developed it. There are boldly two versions: the first is of judgment faith. “In our church the judgment is still begin preached”, some say. In other words: we believe in judgment at least, and that will get us through. That this proclamation often paralyses people, is easily forgotten. But judgment faith is not the touchstone Christ will use. In the dedicated life lies the key (Matthew 7:21), not in the proclamation.
Other Christians have had it with judgment. They might not say it out loud, but it’s clear by their actions. Their attitude is: when I read the Bible, I’ll have my say about anything I find. And when Gods starts about judgment – quite often, that is – I am shocked. And if anyone touches that part of my life that says ‘mine!’ , they’ve got another thing coming. Unnoticed, I’ve become the judge of everything. That way it doesn’t have to be about the coming judgment. Fear or guilt, I feel them sometimes when I think about the judgment coming. It feels devout, but still, it’s about…me.
This is how we try to keep away the coming judgment. What is remarkable, is that God still knows how to reach modern man; His methods always work. Even today. Because where we try to avoid crises in any way, we are confronted with it in an unexpected way. I see some of it in the disclosures by WikiLeaks and some more in those of Edward Snowden. World leaders and citizens see that everything that was hidden, is revealed. What’s been whispered in chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile, is shouted from the rooftops (Matthew 10:26-27). No one wants that and it leads to anger. Meanwhile, God puts Himself on the agenda. He lets us see his crisis is reality. Even more; we are right in the middle of it. Snowden gives us a glimpse of what happens on the day of the Lord: everything will come to light. With that, Snowden was like a prophet of the day of the Lord within our reality. Whether we like it or not, this is what’s coming.
God is back in the cloud
We find the uniqueness of God when we listen to Dutch philosopher Maxim Februari. Februari compares the idea of an all-knowing God with today’s cloud. Like people in western culture learned before that God knows everything about you (Psalm 139), the cloud comprehends your life. With our digitalized world, so says Februari, the all-knowing God is back (Dutch secular newspaper NRC Handelsblad 14th Jan 2013).
What does it do to us now it turns out the cloud is hacked – been hacked by outsiders who now may possibly know things we don’t want anyone to see? What image of god does that produce? Our whole life is on the streets. Our culture had kept God and his coming judgment far off, but suddenly it ‘s very close. Should we start panicking again?
No. Now the gospel alights every corner! Because God is not the all-knowing judgment-God we thought he is or was. The gospel tells us that He who knows and comprehends our whole life has become equal in everything. He who comes to judge is no other than he who became man to save us. Jesus was humiliated at Calvary, left by God and man. He became unknown for everyone. Jesus, crisis-Lord in everything. Snowden gives us a chance to see Jesus as saviour of any kind of judgment. Because Jesus is such a complete crisis-lord, we expectantly look forward to his coming.
Translation by Julia Kolbeek – Harmsen (published in ‘De Reformatie‘ 27-12-2013)
Luyendijks blog: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/joris-luyendijk-banking-blog.