Friday, June 10, 2005

Good News for the Unfortunate

OK, no Bonhoeffer today. He's riffing on the history of western civilization, and I'm content just to read along. Instead, I'd like to return to a quotation I liked from Rebecca Lyman's Early Christian Traditions. Lyman quotes a fragment of the early Christian critic Celsus (c. AD 178) that is preserved in Origen's "Against Celsus":
Those who invite to participation in other mysteries, make proclamation as follows: 'Every one who has clean hands, and a prudent tongue;' others again thus: 'He who is pure from all pollution, and whose soul is conscious of no evil, and who has lived well and justly.' Such is the proclamation made by those who promise purification from sins. But let us hear what kind of persons these Christians invite. Every one, they say, who is a sinner, who is devoid of understanding, who is a child, and, to speak generally, whoever is unfortunate, him will the kingdom of God receive. Do you not call him a sinner, then, who is unjust, and a thief, and a housebreaker, and a poisoner, and a committer of sacrilege, and a robber of the dead? What others would a man invite if he were issuing a proclamation for an assembly of robbers?
I remember reading a couple of years ago some things that Nietzche wrote against Christianity, but Nietzche twisted the Christian message to make it a proper object of his scorn. Not so with Celsus. If this quotation is any indication, Celsus would have been a good evangelist, if only he saw the beauty of what he was criticizing.

How are our churches doing today? Today when Christian churches are criticized as being congregations of sinners, it is based on observation of our behavior not our message. Have we lost the will to preach good news to sinners, to those devoid of understanding, to children, generally to whoever is unfortunate?

1 comment:

LutheranChik said...

That attitude would seem to speak to a lack of understanding about what "being the Church" means, I think.