Last week I mentioned I would share how I was like a Medieval Christian, and how I was different. That is what I want to share today. The main belief I have that is like what the medievals believed, and different from what moderns believe is that you really have to be willing to share, demonstrate, and show both sides, both the good and the evil, to have a proper appreciation for the differences between the two.
This principle was evident not only in medieval literature, but in some of the sculpture on churches. I was somewhat amazed and shocked to see carvings we would label obscene on many Romanesque churches in Spain. They are not just on the outside of the church, to perhaps ward off evil, but inside the churches as well, even to the side of the altar. There are even depictions of genitalia and sex acts. Some suggest these were the work of sculptors sneaking in a roguish tongue-in-cheek statement, or even a similar statement from the Parish priest. But I don’t believe this is the case. I believe that those responsible had the same faith and belief that would lead a modern Christian to label it obscene and inappropriate for presentation on a church. It’s just that the medieval Christian believed both sides of the coin had to be there, for the observer to really be able to make the right decision. The right decision was to reject the lustful sins of the flesh, not just laugh at the rowdy humor of the figures and their placement.
What is more important is how I am different from a medieval Christian. Death was much more a part of everyday life and observation for a medieval. In fact, the Black Death, the plague, had its first real outbreak in 1330, the same year the first version of the Book of Good Love was published. The Black Death was responsible for the population of all of Europe falling from 75 million people to 50 million in the five years from 1347 to 1352. We moderns have no way to really imagine what that would be like. A medieval person seriously thought about death every single day of his life, and worried what would happen to him after he died. The medieval believed Christ and the Church offered salvation and the opportunity for eternal life in Heaven, but it was important to say confession or be baptized on your death bed, late enough to cover all your previous sins, but not early enough you might commit another sin before actually dying.
In contrast, I believe that the Good News, the Gospel is that accepting by faith what Christ did for me cleanses me from all sins – past, present, and future, and provides eternal life. Where I further differ from the medieval Christian, and some modern ones as well, is that I believe the Real Gospel, the Real Good News, is not just a one time act to gain eternal life. The Real Gospel is not that I need to get rid of all the bad in my life so I can go to church. The Real Gospel is not even that I need to give my life to God. The Real Gospel is that Christ promised me an abundant life (not materially, but spiritually), a changed and transformed life, in this life.
Maybe it is more important to share the Real Good News first, that God not only has the answer for all my hurts, habits and hang-ups, but he has the desire to open my eyes and unmuffle my ears so that I can come to my senses and realize what needs to change in my life for it to be better. Better means with the proper reactions to circumstances and pain, without denial and escape. Better means having real joy, a real purpose, genuine fulfillment – all in this life, here, now. I believe it’s possible that if I share this Real Good News with others, based on the Best Love of God, more people will accept that the Good News of a saving relationship with Christ is the logical first step to get to the Real Good News.
The reason I want to see and hear is based on what I have shared about the fact that we have deceitful hearts and what God told Jeremiah to tell the Israelis – they had eyes and could not see, had ears and could not hear, were foolish and senseless. The reason I want to come to my senses is what I have shared is the most important part of the prodigal son story – that the son arrived at a point where “he came to his senses.” Only then did it matter that his father loved him no matter what, and would welcome him back with open arms.