Wednesday, April 10, 2013



Did Jesus have a theology? If so, I want to embrace it. If Jesus has a basic theology, then there is no need to create something new, risking the tainting of a man-made system. Let's check it out!
Systematic theology is a discipline of Christian theology that attempts to formulate an orderly, rational, and coherent account of Christian faith and beliefs. Theologies, creeds, belief systems and doctrines are typically limited by context and timing. They are drawn up by a few who desire to bring about some unity and agreement with one another at a certain point in time. But since they are interpreted by a group of men at a point in time, they are not universal and applicable throughout the ages for the many diverse cultures.

Therefore, most every systematic theology, not only has a limited effect; it has a built-in divisiveness. This is counter to the intent of Jesus as we read his prayer to the Father. Three times in this prayer recorded in the 17th chapter of John, Jesus prayed that all of his followers might be one. He prayed that we might be united as one.

I was taught that there is a danger in the church of Jesus becoming one. I was warned that this kind of unity in the world would be participating in the building of the one world church that Satan will take over at the end of the age. Any talk of worldwide unity or that four-letter word, ecumenical, was just outright rejected.

With this built-in fear of worldwide unity, it was always difficult to understand Jesus' prayer for oneness. Then, I was introduced to Augustine's attempt to resolve differences between believers in the late 4th-early 5th Centuries. He put it this way: In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity (love). I loved this, but it doesn't solve the problem of division. The problem is that we all will find disagreement right from the start in what are the essentials. In my experience, once you have more than one essential, you will have disagreement.

As we draw closer to understanding Jesus, the revolutionary, it's becoming clearer that Jesus does have a theology. It's simple, powerful and anyone can follow it! There are three occasions when Jesus talks about the most important commandment ever given to man. What's interesting is Jesus is unable to give just one commandment, but consistently shares two as equally important. Let's examine each instance.

Matthew records the first: "'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?' and He said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:36-40)

Jesus sums up with an astounding observation about these two commandments: "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." You just don't get any better than this. Jesus is saying these two inseparable commandments are the foundation-the underpinning-of the entire Law and the Prophets. The Law and the Prophets amount to the whole truth God has given. It's all about loving God and loving your neighbor! Do you see Jesus' theology coming together?

Mark records the second instance: "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'Hear, Oh Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.' The scribe said to Him, 'Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is one, and there is no one else besides Him; and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.'"(Mark 12:29-34)

Note the summary response Jesus makes in this instance: When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." In other words, if you embrace these two commandments, you are practicing the very things that bring you near to the presence of God-the Kingdom of God!

Luke records the third instance: And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 10:25-28)

So, if you get into loving God and loving your neighbor, you are at the core of all God's truth and you are near to the Kingdom of God. Now, Jesus adds one more observation: And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; Do this and you will live." This time Jesus says if you embrace these two commandments, you will know what it means to really live!

Just as Jesus lived His life in a loving relationship with the Creator God He called His Father, so are you as a follower of Jesus to do the same. Neither of these two commands was even listed among the 10 Commandments. It's because this is way more important than even God's big 10.

Loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself is the bottom-line theme of Jesus' message. I believe this is the heart of the theology of Jesus. You can't do anything worthwhile, until you are operating with these two dimensions in your life. To think that anything else is more important than what Jesus says is the most important commandment is to miss the point of the love of God through Jesus. Why would anyone want something more than the theology of Jesus?