Thoughts On Religion At The Front - Ch. 9
( Originally Published 1917 )
AT any rate, in the religion of Jesus of Nazareth. We are blessed by the privilege, given to us by the work of realistic historians, of going to Him as our real Brother. We can study the religion of this Man. It was rooted first and last in one dominant reality the Father and His will. From the first sight given to us of Him as a boy and onwards He was rich in one thing He was rich towards God. He looked at the world without insensibility to its pain, without evasion of its evil rather with uniquely sensitive insight into both-as God's world and the scene of God's sovereign activity. And He expected others to share His view. He was repeatedly astonished to find those around Him heedless of the air which He drew in with open mouth, blind to what He saw, deaf to what He heard, unelated by His joy. He was surprised to find them strangely and otherwise absorbed, with hearts elsewhere centred than in God. He expected to find them united to God in a loving loyalty.
He found them in a spiritual adultery. This unshared absorption of Jesus was not the fruit of adversity nor a resort in disappointment. He was not driven to it by anxiety. It came first for Him in peace, in full health, and youth and powers. His was a house which was built in fine weather upon a rock, so that when. the storms of adversity beat on it, it stood firm. His religion stood the severest test, namely, the quiet of normal and uneventful days. It was ready for the strain of a campaign. He emerged out of the peace of Nazareth prepared for enterprise. For the Father to Him was not only the object of immobile worship and delight—not only a Name to be hallowed, but was He Who called Him out to a venture for His kingdom and the doing of His will.
That was how Jesus came among men. He came calling men to a great adventure, to non-calculating and self-regardless co-operation with the active energy and will of the Father. How much He knew beforehand of whither that will would lead Him can never be known. To suppose that He knew all and saw the end in the beginning and had no steps in the dark to take, would be to deny to Him the essential element of human faith and trust, which is that it has to step out beyond the light of knowledge into the darkness of uncertainty. On the other hand, to suppose that He knew nothing, is to deny to Him that humanly heroic resolution with which He set His face to tread the path which led Him to suffering. In our ignorance let us grip this certainty, that for Him the one sufficient thing was that the Father knew all things the times and the seasons, the cup to be drunk, the will to be done and the final outcome.
That was enough for Him and must be enough for us.
This religion of Jesus then is that to which all can turn, as their hearts are full beyond expression with proud and thankful sorrow for the great company of those who have trustfully given themselves to death for others. Jesus is the Word, that is, the full and crowning expression of that which is hardly articulate in others. His open-eyed self-consecration to do the will of the Father seals and ratifies their confused yet steadfast devotion. He is first among many brethren, giving full utterance to their dumb trustfulness.
In a world of mixed and partial motives He is the absolute and unmitigated lover of God—loving with all His mind and soul and strength, freely hazarding all upon the Father.
Is not that enough ? This simple element—this religion of Jesus—is it not the one thing needful, possessed of which men may slough off all else in the traditional deposits of Christianity ?
Yes, would certainly be the answer if the men of His day had in fact been so possessed, and if men were so possessed today. What was actual in Him was, is, in fact, unrealised in them. He did find, of old, fellow-adventurers to share His enterprise. But they could not share it to the end. He could love God wholly, they only partially. He had to leave them, and they Him ; He to do the will of the Father, they to fail to do it. He alone could not only announce but fulfil the first and great commandment; they in the end could only be defied and broken by it.
So it was proved. And it is a result which any honest man can verify for himself. As I have tried to show elsewhere,' the most rigorously human and non-miraculous view of Jesus awl the Gospels leads to this point, to what may be called the porch where Peter wept, where the silence of God broods over the tragedy of human failure.