Friday, September 02, 2005

The Old Car-Jack Theology

In a sermon 25 years ago, John Piper preached on how the two thieves on cross represent two different ways of responding to suffering. Here's his explanation of the first thief's response:

The first thief says, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" What a picture of a spiritually destitute, worldly man. It is a matter of total indifference to him that he is suffering "the due reward of his deeds." To him right and wrong, praise and blame, good and bad are of no interest: his one objective is to save his earthly skin. He might even believe Jesus is the Messiah, the King of the Jews. But, it's only a matter of convenience to him: he'll take anybody as king who can get him off the cross. Just another patsy to serve his own worldly purposes.

That's the way one whole segment of humans relate to God in suffering. Suffering interrupts their own private worldly goals and pleasures. So why not try God; if you are king, then get me out of this mess. It's the old car-jack theology. A car-jack is a dirty, useless thing to be kept out of sight in the trunk until you have a flat tire (a little suffering). Then you get it out, let it do the dirty work and put it away again. "If you're such a good jack, jack me down off this cross, Jesus." "If you're such a good jack, jack me up out of this sickness, out of this financial mess, out of this lousy job, out of this crummy marriage. "

The thief had no spirit of brokenness, or guilt or penitence or humility. He could only see Jesus as a possible power by which to escape the cross. He did not see him as a king to be followed. It never entered his mind that he should say he was sorry and should change.

To read about the other thief and how they compare, you can read the whole sermon.