Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Pearl of Great Price, the extraordinary claim

The extraordinary claim of Christianity among religions is that it is about you personally.

That is different from ancient beliefs that focused tribally on the needs and wants of a host of ancestor spirits or on the needs and demands of far flung gods who either exhibited indifference or made terrible demands.  It takes very little reading to get the idea that the gods looked down and laughed or went off drinking and hunting or whatever, making trouble but offering little comfort.

Later religions aren't much more personal.  The Taoists emphasized the impersonal nature of existence.  There is no finding or knowing Chi.  Might as well go fishing as go seeking. Fishing is more satisfying. I mean, you can feed someone a fish and you satisfy them for a day, or you can teach them to fish and send them away for a lifetime.

To many people it is a frightening and indifferent world, this vast existence, and impersonal.  Many atheists cite a hyper-rational awareness of numbers, just how many people there are and how vast the universe is... and they can't imagine a personal god who could know individuals, care about them or have plans for them.

But, the Bible starts that way.  It begins with one person to whom God speaks, then two people, and He speaks to them as individuals and as a couple.

Then the book of Genesis talks about their children.  Cain is shown in the practice of his religion, and the Bible says that God would not see Cain.  The Hebrew word is sha'ah, which means "look" or "see".  It gets poetically embellished and interpreted by translators in subsequent translations, but it means that God would not see Cain, God would not look at Cain.  But to know and to be known... the scriptures talk about knowing God and being known by God.

The eyes of the Lord are on them that fear Him.  And the first thing He says is, Be not afraid.  Don't let your hearts be troubled.

In that vast civilized, urbane and mathematical kingdom of Chaldea, God spoke to Abraham, one man, and called him out personally to be a father and blessing to many. Throughout the stories, God speaks to individuals such as Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Hannah, Hagar, Elijah, David.  Personal.  Individual.

In the gospels, Jesus knows people by name, knows their stories.

Jesus told parables. He told a parable about someone who found a pearl of great price and when he found it he went and sold all that he had so that he could have that pearl, so that he could have the treasure.

Jesus is the man who paid everything.  You are the pearl.  You are His treasure for whom He gave everything.

What an extraordinary claim!  There is no other claim like it.