John W. Vest
Nothing has generated conversation on my Facebook page lately like posts about Donald Trump. Yesterday I posted a story about Catholic bishops taking on Trump. Noting that he claims to be a Presbyterian, I wondered if Presbyterian leaders should be addressing his rhetoric as well. A variety of people weighed in, and given the predominance of liberals among my FB friends most of the comments were in favor of critiquing the Donald. It was also pointed out that the PCUSA’s Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns has in fact responded to Trump.
I grew up in Southern Baptist congregations. By the time I left high school I knew the four steps to salvation and the meaning of Jesus’ sacrificial death as a substitutionary atonement for my sins. I could articulate this understanding of salvation in clear and simple terms. Within the metanarrative of evangelical Christianity it made perfect sense and was logically coherent. Then my fundamentalism began to unravel.
In my Century lectionary column for this week, I mention Scot McKnight’s description of the dual love commandment in Mark 12:28-33 (and synoptic parallels) as the “Jesus Creed”—which also happens to be the title of his popular book on the subject and the name of his blog. My sense is that our lectionary readings from the Leviticus holiness code and the Sermon on the Mount are summae of the gospel.
What does God require of us? We tend to like Jesus’ most famous answer, what Scot McKnight calls the Jesus Creed: to love God with our entire being and to love our neighbors as ourselves. But what about the answer we find in the holiness code of Leviticus and the Sermon on the Mount? Are we really ready to sign up for a program of holiness and perfection? Sure, it’s simple and to the point. But what chance do we have of living up to these radical standards?
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