We are currently in the midst of a sermon series called from Jesus to Paul to Practical Living. The goal of the series is to try to apply theology to our lives. In essence, we are exploring how faith and good work interact in our lives and how spiritual growth happens. In our "inherited" theology we have a tendency to either focus on Jesus and his ushering in the kingdom, which challenges us to treat people— specifically the outcast and the oppressed (i.e., social justice)— in an absolutely insanely loving way, or focus on Paul and his radical teachings about grace, many of which lead us to adopt certain beliefs (theology) about Jesus. In choosing one over the other, we miss out on Jesus' teachings (they are perhaps too hard for us to follow) and ignore Paul's life (his theology is more interesting and stunning).
We also, unknowingly pit one against the other and live in a limbo between our narrow view of Paul's theology and our narrow view of how to treat people like Jesus did. That simply won't work. At best we will believe things that don't ever play out in our lives and/or will act in certain ways because "Jesus did" without really understanding what beliefs and convictions founded his behavior and choices. In other words, our beliefs and actions won't really line up... and we won't find much good news in either camp a part from the other.
Jesus and Paul do not contradict each other as some would have us believe. In order to counteract this confusion we must read Jesus and Paul in the context of living out the Gospel (“good news”) in our lives. In focusing on the Gospel, which simply put is the good news that God really does love us and wants what's best for us – all of which Jesus himself shows us, we will see how Paul sees Jesus and how Jesus sees himself. Only this way of reading it will assist us in understanding the various nuances and perspectives that may seem, on the surface, in disagreement.
I gave two challenges in the introduction to this sermon series: (1) find your own "discrepancy" between Paul and Jesus, and (2) find a very memorable (less than ten words) quote from either Jesus or Paul that is meaningful to you in some way specific. I hope you will take my two challenges to heart and in doing these two activities I think you will be engaged in the sermon series in a way that will help you contribute to what we are talking about and will begin to apply some of these truths to your own life! I hope you will join us for this series as we seek to make the Gospel of Jesus a practical reality in every aspect of our lives.
Brad Davis | Minister, Denton North Church