Is “Jesus is the Answer” a Cop-Out?
We must avoid clichés and "Sunday school" answers as we seek after Christ.
We’ve all heard that “Jesus is the answer.” The cliché is as popular as any within our churches.
And like any cliché, it does not serve us well.
When Christian teenagers enter the university, the “Sunday school answers” they had learned start to seem trite and simplistic. For many, their introduction into a critical, reflective posture devolves into dismissing answers altogether. Others transform their faith from cliché into cliché, as they adopt trendier truisms to replace the old ones.
But “Jesus is the answer” doesn’t have to be a cop-out or cliché.
For some, the realization comes at the end of a lot of hard-nosed inquiry into life’s most difficult questions.
What sort of God could possibly allow suffering? How can we remake a broken and sinful world? And there are others. The longer we spend working through those questions, the more prepared we will be to hear the transformative power of the gospel when we are confronted by it.
In that moment, “Jesus is the answer” becomes a reverential, joyfully exuberant affirmation of the glorious reality of God’s love. In that moment, all our longing is transformed into worship.
There are some questions that we will pursue, in fact, that only Jesus can answer.
Consider early Christianity’s relationship with the philosopher Plato. Plato grasped some of the fundamental questions as well as anyone: How does an individual relate to community? How do we begin on our journey into understanding? How shall we overcome the shadow of death, the mortality of the body?
Plato wrestled long with hard questions; he could not find answers. Those only came, the early Christians argued, in the person of Jesus.
But the Bible has its own set of questions that we learn to ask as we walk with Jesus.
What does it mean that Jesus is the Messiah? How will God be faithful to His people? What is the nature of Christ’s union with the Father? What is the relationship between Christ’s two natures? And maybe most importantly, how should we understand Jesus’ sacrificial death?
Jesus may be the answer then, but he also teaches us the right questions to ask.
The witness of the gospel established a new way of looking at the world that Plato and the other ancient philosophers had never imagined. And that new paradigm meant opening new avenues of inquiry. The early Christians did not quit thinking once they believed in Jesus.
But their newfound faith changed their questions, reinvigorating an intellectual world that had otherwise come to exhaustion.