Jesus Is Our Center – by Greg Albrecht
Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and you are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it. (James 4:1, MSG)
If you have not noticed, our world today is as divided and at odds as it has been for a long time. The divide is not just nationalistic between nations who are either rattling sabers or perhaps openly at war, the divide is not just political between political parties, the divide is everywhere.
Christ-less religion leads the charge, pitting, whether knowingly or unknowingly, family members and friends against one another. Then comes the media, stirring the pot as furiously as it can, relatively unconcerned with truth and fact, as it chases ratings. Then comes education. Need I continue? We are at odds, at cross purposes… to use a really ancient term, we are at loggerheads.
Paul famously advised tolerance and forbearance of those with whose faith we disagree:
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall (Romans 14:1-4).
Perhaps to the chagrin of modern-day vegans, Paul identifies those who confine their diets to vegetables as “weak in the faith.” But he does not say they are apart from faith. For Paul, they are part of the faithful body of believers. It is fair to say that when one determines that their culture and behavior is superior and better than those who are “weak in the faith” then that very judgment means that one is not at all “strong” in Christ-centered faith.
How about a really hot topic over the past few years?
Are we clothed in righteousness by virtue of wearing a mask or is it more virtuous to refrain from wearing a mask? Masks and Vaccines… are they the critical and core issue for Christ-followers?
Centered in Jesus Christ
Our world is ridiculously self-absorbed, leading individuals to assume their insights, political and religious affiliations, skills and contributions, ideas and expertise are the most important part of life. Who we are, what we do, what we look like –those issues are the center of our life, we are told – and therefore many live a narrow, self-absorbed life.
But for those of us who follow Jesus Christ, Jesus alone is our center. The cross of Jesus insists that Jesus is our center because our relationship with God is all about what Jesus, God in the flesh, has done for us – NOT what we are capable of and must do for ourselves.
The cross of Jesus centers us so that we fall in love with God – and we switch our center from any human focus to God.
The cross of Jesus centers us so that we surrender to Jesus and to God’s grace – we switch from an endless and futile quest of trying to convince God to love us to just letting God love us.
Before we are centered in Jesus, we don’t really love God with our whole heart, mind and soul.
Before we are centered in Jesus, we are, in the main, afraid of an image of God that does not in fact exist – an image that Christ-less religion has deceived us into believing.
Before we are centered in Jesus, we try to prove ourselves to God – when we are centered in Jesus we rest in him, we live in his freedom, we embrace his grace, and we know that perfect love casts out fear.
Jesus is our center because of his manger and his cross – because, to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book “Christ the Center” (pg. 107) “he came into our world incognito, as a beggar among beggars, as an outcast among outcasts, as despairing among the despairing, as dying among the dying.”
He is our center because he is not apart and immune from the world we encounter and experience and the sufferings we endure, but because he is with us and part of the world in which we live and die.
Jesus fully becomes our center when we surrender to him, when we pick up our own cross and follow him and when we die to our own self-centered pursuits and ask him to live his risen life in us.
Bonhoeffer’s Three Definitions of Christ-Centeredness
You may already know Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a true Christian martyr. Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor who steadfastly opposed Adolph Hitler, arrested in April 1943 because of his Christ-centered beliefs and teachings, and was executed in April 1945 as Hitler’s so-called Third Reich was collapsing.
It was in the midst of this chaotic and horrifically divided world of hatred and warfare Bonhoeffer ministered and wrote, giving three definitions and explanations of what it means to be centered in Christ:
- Jesus Christ is the center of all existence and reality for those who follow him. Jesus is no academic exercise – he is a living reality, not a textbook on a dusty library shelf. Jesus is not a political cause. Jesus is the only way to make sense of our existence – Jesus is the only meaning that offers hope beyond the mundane life of suffering and pain we all live.
- Jesus is the center and the significance of all history. Jesus is more than just another man – more than “the Jesus of history.” Jesus is not interpreted by history, rather history is interpreted through and by him, on the basis of his life, death and resurrection.
- Jesus Christ is the heart and soul of all creation. We do not deduce from nature that God is at work – but rather, we can see, in Jesus Christ, who came to reveal the fullness of God, how nature and all of creation reveals and glorifies God. Paul says it this way in Colossians 1:15-16: “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”
When they discover the center of the universe, a lot of people will be disappointed they are not it.
I urge you, in Jesus’ name, to embrace Jesus as the absolute foundation and center of your life. True, abiding joy does not come from any earthly relationship or political program or nationalistic identity or religious affiliation – true, abiding joy only comes from being Christ-centered.