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The Fullness of Life.

By Rod Mitchell in All Sorts

Jesus’ coming is about demonstrating what life is all about in its fullest expression

I have recently been rereading two very good books which give quite different views of the role of Jesus. The first book is called “Jesus, Symbol of God”, by Roger Haight, who places great importance on Jesus coming to be our saviour. He does an excellent job of reviewing the various theories of salvation that have been offered over the centuries, giving us a clear sense of each one’s contribution and limitations. Yet I never quite got away from the old sense of Jesus being a rescuer of some sort, and of ourselves, as humans, being totally flawed.
So I began rereading an older book by Grace Jantzen called “Becoming Divine: Towards a Feminist Philosophy of Religion”. While the title may not be the most inviting, I found her ideas totally refreshing. She too explored the theme of Jesus’ salvation, but within a totally new frame which I found mind-blowing and much more satisfying. In chapter seven, titled ‘They shall flourish as a garden’, she introduces her notion of salvation, focussing on female imagery rather than the male imagery that she declares only leads to silence, muteness and mimicry. She makes a sharp distinction between a salvation focus on either Death or Life, and with women the vehicle for birthing new life, she wants to shift focus from after-death models to life- bearing models.
So what might this do for our understanding of Jesus and our reading of the Bible? First, it places importance on John 10: 8 – 10, with weight on verse 10. “8: All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9: I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.10: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Salvation as more abundant life is the focus of John’s gospel. What a lovely shift of emphasis! And if we go back to the first chapters of Genesis we find that one of the very early gifts of God is God breathing into humanity the breath of Life, not the breath of Death. So Jesus’ coming is about demonstrating what life is all about in its fullest expression – saving us from a death-focus, that we might truly live here and now.
How to flourish as human beings, like a well-tended garden, is what so much of the Bible is trying to teach us. Jesus’ parables are a great starting place to gain confidence in this refocus. Or explore the various “I am” statements in John’s gospel to gain another good sense of life being the focus of salvation – not death! The great prayer of the writer of Ephesians 3 (verses 19-20) expresses the desire that ‘you.....may be filled with all the fullness of God’, and continues exulting in a God ‘who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think”. What a lovely refocus on flourishing as human beings.
Rod Mitchell.