Bear the Name
Listening to this podcast is a better use of your time than my blog; come back here for commentary on this episode:
I listen to a lot of podcasts - a lot of podcasts - and I haven't been as excited about an episode as this one for a long time. There are layers of beauty for me here. The first being that the episode begins with Jon, Tim, and Carmen talking about Ray Lubeck, Karl Kutz, and the lab instructors who influenced them in reading and teaching the Bible. These are some of the same people who influenced me. The episode also ends with Dr. G - another influence in my own biblical instruction.
Layer two: Carmen mentions that she's the whole OT department at Prairie College which means that there's a student there who very likely has been taught by both her and I and had this legacy influence of Lubeck/Kutz and Bible Project guys from both his high school and college Bible teachers which I just find exciting. It's the same kind of excitement I get when the student who did an independent study with me through Ray's book tells me that he watched a Bible Project video in his free time to help him with his personal Bible reading (he does that regularly and I get excited every time he tells me about it).
Layer three: I lamented a couple weeks ago that I lacked the language to express to students that Christianity isn't about following a bunch of empty rules, and all I could seem to do was try to live out how much I loved Jesus and hope it made sense as an expression of truth to students I mentor. This podcast gave a beautiful, full explanation of how we bear the name of YHWH based on grace not merit and then celebrate that beautiful, full life in loving relationship with God. In talking about how the people of Israel first receive the law, Carmen succinctly says, "They're already free, and the laws are a way of showing them how to live in freedom... it's not meant to earn salvation, and instead meant to shape the way we live as a grateful response to salvation."
One of the many alumni I keep up with who chooses to bear the name of Jesus went through an interesting journey over the past year and a half deciding what that would look like in his own life.
"I think I need to stop drinking illegally," he told me over a year ago, "It's not a great witness to Jesus."
A couple months later, he confessed he'd messed up and had some alcohol at a university party. He said he was going to try again to follow the law even though alcohol wasn't the moral issue. He wanted to look different because Jesus called him to obey the US government that didn't allow him to drink until he was 21. Then summer came, and he was in a state with legal weed and lots of friends who didn't know Jesus. He spent a good chunk of the summer drunk and high and texting friends not very Jesus honoring content. We talked about it recently. Actually, we talked about it just a couple hours before I listened to this podcast for the first time (it was so good I had to relisten to it today).
I didn't have Carmen's beautiful language in that conversation, but I tried to get my alumni to realize that following Jesus is actually worth it on it's own, and the rules aren't about limiting your fun. In fact, I have a lot of fun as a Jesus follower. I have full freedom in my pursuit of loving God and loving others, and I really want to share that with others. "What kind of message are you sending your non-Christian friends?" I asked my alumni, "Does calling a yourself a Jesus follower ever make you look different? What's the point of it to them - to you? How does it invite them into relationship with Jesus if you look identical to their non-Jesus lifestyle? Why would they want Jesus?"
I asked some hard questions, but I'm happy to say that the alumni committed to real responses in his own life. He's going to follow up with me about the ways his life is constantly changing to be closer to Jesus. He actually wants his life to look different with Jesus in it so that he can be a better representative who invites others into relationship with Jesus. He wants his life to be marked.
Years ago, I chose to have my life marked by following Jesus. First by my lifestyle and actions, but then after a couple long conversations with Dr. Hauff about meat sacrificed to idols, I got my first tattoo. The end of the podcast episode connects the concept of bearing God's name to the biblical ban on tattoos - culturally they were usually marks of bearing another god's name. Carmen encourages people to think about who they are aligning themselves with when getting a tattoo - mine happens to be the word "doulos" which is the Greek term often translated "bond slave" that the apostles used to describe themselves in relationship with Jesus. While it's often covered by my socks and shoes, it's a physical reminder for me that I chose to bear the name of God; I'm permanently aligned with Jesus. What I do, then, reflects on my Master.
This is where my actions matter. It's not about earning salvation, like I referenced above. The podcast touches on how the exile was a profaning of God's name and the return was to restore God's name. It's not about what the people did to earn their return; it's God lavishing grace all over the place again. I'm so far from perfect in my representation of Jesus, but there's this lavish grace that lets me keep growing in my ability to love. I don't want to criticize, demean, or shame my students when they make mistakes; I want to represent the Name that saved the people from slavery before giving the law which was actually a way to generously share with them how to have freedom and healthy relationship between God and other people.
In reality, Jesus put his name on me, and I want my life to be a clear message of my gratitude for that.
Who have you given your allegiance to? And does your lifestyle reflect that?