I know the title for this post might raise an eyebrow but I promise, in a few minutes it will make sense. It’s not the beginning of a bad joke like, “A priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a bar…” And even though the title is, Jesus, a theologian, and a rock star, I am actually going to discuss each of those people in the reverse order. I mean, Jesus has to get top billing in the title, right? First, the rock star…
I was listening to satellite radio (i.e. Sirius) yesterday and stopped on the hard rock station, Octane. The band that was on at the time is called Stone Sour and they were singing their new song, Do Me a Favor. I am familiar with the band but had never heard this particular song before; the lyrics didn’t strike me as any radical departure from the norm of today’s hard rock.
The song had plenty of angst and rage directed outwardly; the lyrics didn’t really leave me with an understanding of who or what the target was for all the rage, although the imagery in the video suggests the lyricist has some daddy issues and a beef with the Catholic Church.
Basically, I see the song as just another contribution to a culture that is already bursting at the seams with angst and rage. In fact, the first line of the song begins with, “I am an anti-everything man…” so that kind of lets you know from the beginning where the whole thing is going.
Despite the rage, the second time the chorus was sung, it did get my attention. The first half of it goes like this:
So do me a favor
Is just a reason why
There is no savior
I know it may be a little difficult without the melody, such as it is, but the way it is sung leaves the listener with the impression that someone’s behavior is why there is no savior. Now objectively that is ridiculous. No one’s behavior, good or bad, can cause a savior to exist or not exist. Or can it? Let’s hear from our theologian – Dr. Ralph Martin.
Dr. Martin’s latest book, Will Many Be Saved: What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization, is the published version of his doctoral dissertation which dug deeply into the Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium). In working his way through the doctrinal developments of Lumen Gentium, Dr. Martin also refers to the Council’s Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio) and at one point quotes from paragraph four of the decree. I think after reading it, you may begin to pick up on the connection to song lyric I mentioned above:
For although the Catholic Church has been endowed with all divinely revealed truth and with all means of grace, yet its members fail to live by them with all the fervor that they should, so that the radiance of the Church’s image is less clear in the eyes of our separated brethren and of the world at large, and the growth of God’s kingdom is delayed (UR 4a (my emphasis added)).
Do you see that? Members of the Church – Christians – failing to live their life of faith adequately are impeding the growth of God’s Kingdom! Dr. Martin adds his commentary on this section of Unitatis Redintegratio:
Not every proclamation of the gospel can be deemed “adequate,” either because of deficiency of content, manner, or witness of life, and therefore not everyone who apparently rejects such an “inadequate” preaching of the gospel can be judged culpable of unbelief” (Martin, 53 (my emphasis added)).
This is really significant and should be a wake up call for Christians. If our “witness of life” (i.e. “behaviors”) is an inadequate representation of the gospel, then it is the Christian who will be held accountable for their neighbor’s unbelief.
For example, if you preach and preach at your neighbor about reforming their lives and returning to the Church, but everything they see you do is contrary to the gospel, then the fact they didn’t choose to believe and return to the Church is as much on you, as it is on them, maybe even more.
So this leads us to Jesus (as everything should). How many different instructions did Jesus leave us on how to act? Honestly, not a lot; it was always the same instruction, just perhaps worded a little differently each time:
- A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another (Jn 13:34)
- By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (Jn 13:35)
- You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these (Mk 12:30-31).
- Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (Jn 15:13).
- But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Mt 5:44).
- If you love me, you will keep my commandments (Jn 15:14)
I think you might be catching on by now on what Jesus’ expectations for us are (I sure hope so!).
It is possible, sadly it is even quite common today, for people not to believe there is a savior, to think one doesn’t even exist. And why is that? Well, it might be they have hardened their hearts to such a degree that no amount of persuasive talk and loving generosity will change their mind. If that is the case, we are not released from our obligation to love them but they will held culpable for the unbelief.
However, there is a chance that some are not as convinced by persuasive talk as they would be by seeing a living example of Christ’s love. If they can’t see that in us and decide all our talk is just that – talk – then it us who will be held accountable for their unbelief.