A Thanksgiving Meditation – The Value of Christ
Dr. Peter Kuzmic was recently on the campus of Yale University as part of their Faith and Globalization Initiative. During his time there he fielded a question from a student that went something like this:
Some of our readings have suggested that religion can be brought in to humanize the “other.” So, to establish tolerance in a society that has come out of a war, you use religion to make the “other” [the former enemy] appear more human – you humanize them. This humanizing role is vital in helping societies recover from war and preventing further conflict. What replaces this role in a secular society? How do you humanize the enemy in a society that has no place for religion?
When I first heard this question, I immediately assumed that I had nothing in common with the questioner. The way she phrased her question presupposes the idea that religion no longer has a place in modern society. She is assuming that the benefits previously contributed to society through religion can be achieved by other means. In other words, the function of religion can be replaced, its positive effects can be reproduced (and I’m sure she would say surpassed) by another social construct. The question for her is not whether this is true, but only which construct Dr. Kuzmic would recommend to replace religion. I do not agree with any of these presuppositions. As a believer in the living Jesus, to answer the question is to cede her assumptions, therefore the question has to be contested on presuppositional grounds. I am nothing like this young woman…or might my own heart be closer to her question than I imagine?
The sentiment driving this co-ed’s question is the idea that Jesus (she calls it religion) has proven useful. He performs a function. He plays a role. She sees Him like an integer in an algebra equation – He has a utilitarian value such that when you plug Him in for “x”, the equation balances, society works. If, however, we can find another integer that plugs into the equation just as well, and maybe this time without the baggage Jesus carries, then we can replace Him and lose nothing! His value is not inherent in who He is, it is utilitarian, tied to what He does.
It sounds crass to talk about Jesus in these terms. But how often, especially over Thanksgiving week, are we tempted to talk this same way? How much of our giving thanks stops at remembering the gifts Jesus has brought us rather than encouraging the eyes of our heart to ascend in thanksgiving for the Gift of who He is. Test your heart in this Beloved! We give thanks for the bread that He brings, but not for the Bread that He is; we give thanks for the peace that He brings, but not for the Peace that He is; we give thanks for the health that He gives, but not for the Life that He is. And each of us could add to the list.
The more I have meditated on this student’s question, the more I have heard my own heart buried in her assumptions! It is not a large step from concentrating my thanksgiving on what Jesus has brought me to the idea that if I can find someone else to provide those things, Jesus would no longer be necessary. I would never agree to this idea on paper, but my heart can be led there if I am careless with my affections – letting them remain on the product instead of ascending to the Person.
The truth we must keep ever before us in this season is that Jesus is not useful, He is precious! His gifts are not for the purpose of directing us to a product, but to the value of a Person. There is nothing and no one that can replace Him because He does not play a role or perform a function in our life, He is our Life!
May the Father be pleased this Thanksgiving season to pour out on us His Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus! May the eyes of our heart be enlightened to see Him for who He is. And may we give thanks to Him for the precious, glorious, inherent, irreplaceable value of His Person!