Longing for the Divine

You Gotta Serve Somebody

We must choose carefully which gods we serve. Contemporary folk-rock singer Bob Dylan put it this way: “You’ve gotta serve somebody.” The first and second commandment, as presented in Exodus 20, is usually interpreted as meaning that there is only one God. However, while the commandment calls for sole allegiance to God, it does not deny the existence of other gods. The New Testament affirms that there are “so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:5–6, ESV).

How can true Christians and followers of Jesus distinguish themselves in today’s hostile climate, where guns, prayer, and abortion are getting so much attention? How can a more Christlike God be seen in an age of fervent patriotism and holy culture wars? In a statement expressing uniqueness, the Bible says that God is the only true God and that there is no other like Him (Deuteronomy 4:35). He is not a generalized God affirmed by civil religion. He’s the God revealed by Jesus. I like that Jesus refused worldly power, rejected religious extremism and stepped away from the popular nationalism of His day. I like that He came proclaiming the Kingdom of God with a healing message and provided and cared for those who were poor, outcast, or hurting.

Mary of Bethany often sat near Jesus’ feet because she was transfixed by the loveliness of His person. John likewise chose closeness, reclining his head close to Jesus. Something about Jesus also made Him very appealing to little children and mothers. Many of his closest followers were women who felt safe with and truly love and valued by Him. Jesus showed charity to the culturally marginalized Canaanite mother and her child (Matthew 15:21-28). He had such great regard for every individual. Even rich and influential people, such as Nicodemus, were drawn to Jesus. A rough Roman soldier was drawn to the dying Jesus, beating his chest and declaring in admiration, “Surely this man was the son of God” (Mark 15:39).

Jesus’ treatment of Judas, who betrayed Him, was amazing. He was patient with this trader, never accusing him or kicking him out. He even washed his dirty feat. Jesus’ grace, mercy, and genteelness were remarkable, demonstrating His sense of security, His integrity, His love, and His ability to confront conflict without being intimidated or using compulsion. It was incredible how He was firm without being severe. I like His firmness as he drove the oppressive profiteers out of the Temple. I like that He told people not to flaunt their faith. I like that He blessed little children, accepted their affection, and expressed displeasure with those who abused them. The more you observe Jesus, the more you will be attracted to the beauty of His character. It is this attractiveness—this loveliness and beauty—that makes Him so unique.

Jesus had a lot to say on topics that apply to today’s heated culture war. Christians like to talk about being saved by grace, but often so little grace is on display. So much of the smarmy, patronizing Christianity we see is based on a dingy view of God—a misconception about the kind of person Jesus declared God to be. Jesus was not a dogmatic traditionalist or an authoritarian. Jesus was gracious and forgiving. I like how He warned about pretentious public prayer, suggesting that it was an opportunity for hypocrisy and overt shows of pity among religiously misguided zealots (Matthew 6:5–6). I like that Jesus did not oppose personal protection (Luke 22:30–37) but was against excessive force and arbitrary violence. For example, in a kind of sword control, He told the disciples, “It is enough!” (Luke 22:38). When Peter cut off a servant’s ear to prevent Jesus from being arrested, Jesus rebuked him and healed the ear. We have in our hearts so much hatred and resentment toward our enemies that Jesus would not condone. Revenge and resentment are not included in Jesus’ view of God. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount included clear hints and reiterations of Sinai, negating any misperceptions of God as vengeful or severe. 

I see the attractive beauty and loveliness of Jesus’ life, and I choose give Him a prominent place in my life today precisely because of what He said and did. When I envision God revealed like this, I find myself desiring and loving Him, too. I want to imitate His beauty and loveliness. Living mercifully, compassionately, and graciously is part of the counterculture of following Jesus.

Many Christians fail to perceive God as someone just like Jesus. They may verbalize their allegiance to Christ but fail to recognize false images of Him. God asks that we give Him allegiance above all others because the concepts underlying the worshiping of other false images changes us from being the image bearers of His beauty and love. I choose to live in the countercultural world of Jesus as a remedy for the problems of society. You may have tried everything else, so why not try Jesus’ view of God? He is so lovely and attractive, and after all, you have to serve somebody. 

Craig Ashton Jr.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: