Odd truth

The late southern author, Flannery O’Connor once said, “You shall know the truth, and truth shall make you odd.” It’s a twist of something Jesus said in John 8:32 about God’s truth. The truth of the Christian faith will make you different from the rest of world, sometimes shockingly so.

Ephesians 4:22 says, “Put off your old self.” Now that sounds odd to us, but it’s the language of Baptism. In Baptism, we become new creations. We put off our old identity and put on our truest and best identity, the one God gives us.

Every day, all day, the world tells us, “You be you.” “Be true to yourself.” It resonates with us because we’re basically self-centered. The irony is, it’s the culture telling us that. It’s others telling us to be us. If we believe it, we’re really just doing what someone else says.

What makes a Christian shockingly different is not their appearance, the way they act, or their likes and dislikes. A Christian has just as many problems as anyone else.

A Christian, a real one at least, is someone who is less and less motivated by what the world says.

A Christian is increasingly motivated by the truth that the living God stepped into history in the person of Jesus Christ. The only rational choice for the Christian then is to start putting off the things of their old identity and follow the God-man, Jesus.

That may seem odd to some.

Passing through the waters

The videos coming out of Missouri were heartbreaking. Floodwaters had risen rapidly and with little warning. Homes were underwater or swept away. Most of the deaths happened when people underestimated the strength of the current and tried to drive through the water. One bewildered survivor said that he had gone to work in the morning and came home to find four feet of water in his home.

As the New Year began, people everywhere were being overcome by different kinds of floods. Some faced the holidays for the first time after the loss of a loved one. A friend was laid off after working at a company for years. In our family, the question of how to care for aging parents was made more difficult when one parent was diagnosed with progressive kidney disease.

The truth is that many things in life can leave us asking who am I? Where do I belong? Do I even matter?

This is the week when the church remembers the baptism of Jesus; when we remember that God went under the water for us. The prophet Isaiah wrote that when you pass through rivers, when you pass through waters, when you walk through fire…God is with you. It would be easy for God to wave a cosmic hand and lift us out of our troubles. Instead God chooses to do something infinitely harder, and in doing so proves his costly love for us: God walks with us through the floods and fires.

When the religious insiders asked Jesus for a sign to prove who he was, he said the sign they would get was the “sign of the prophet Jonah.” Jonah had spent three days in the belly of a fish, but Jesus would spend “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Jesus allowed himself to be overwhelmed to death.

The floods of life are always going to come, and at the worst possible time. They may engulf us, but Jesus proves they ultimately won’t overwhelm us.