He Will Not Go Away

He came to be with us. That’s the long and the short of it.

He’s like an annoying lover. He can’t live without you. He knows you don’t want him. He knows you will reject him – again, and again, and again. He knows you would really prefer it if he just cleared out of your life. But he won’t.

He’s like an annoying brother. He sees that you’ve gotten yourself into a mess. He knows that you don’t see it that way. And you’re stubborn. And you have your dignity. And you will hate him for meddling. But the mess is too big. So he just picks up the pieces anyway.

He doesn’t want anything in return. He doesn’t want your faith, or your obedience, or your love, or your good deeds, or your gratitude. He knows he won’t get them from you. Still, he won’t go away.

There is really nothing we can do about this. In fact, we’ve already tried everything. We’ve ignored him, laughed at him, shrugged our shoulders, rejected him, killed him. We’ve believed him, understood him, praised him, built churches in his honor, performed feats of asceticism and loads of good works, got pretty proud of him, killed in his name. We’ve lost our delusions, grew up, and finally almost forgot him. Still, he won’t go away.

This is his free gift. Himself. A broken man on a bloody cross. A god who doesn’t care about justice or righteousness, about honor or worship. You don’t have to accept him because, if you don’t, you’ll go to hell. You won’t. You don’t have to believe in him because, if you don’t, your life will have no meaning. It will. You don’t have to beg for his mercy because, if you don’t, you’ll feel anxious or guilty. You won’t. The thing is – you don’t have to turn to him at all. In fact, none of us turn to him. But he won’t go away.

When he says that he took the sins of the world on himself, he means it. If you feel like crap because you just did something you know isn’t right (and you know you can’t fix it), if you think that this world is an absolute hell-hole, if you are in pain, if you’re angry, if you’re dying, if you simply wish you’d never been born – if you feel like all of this is someone’s fault – then look no further. It is his fault. Really. He means it. Go ahead – throw things at him, accuse him, yell at him, curse him. That’s the whole point. He actually freely accepts this blame. He takes all of this mess on. He stands before us, accountable and convicted. He dies under this weight. Still, he won’t go away.

That’s his only response. That’s the only reason he rises from the dead. To return to us, to be with us, to give himself to us. We don’t care. We want him to make it all better, or get lost. We know he failed us. We don’t need him at all. But this is what he wants – to be with us this way. And he does it. There is nothing more.

He is with us this way despite and in spite of all our theologies of redemption, all our pious or impious theories of salvation, all our wise interpretations of his stubborn, foolish, inexplicable act. Take your pick – it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t care whether we accept him or not, whether we understand who he is or not, whether we change our life in response to him or not. He just won’t go away.

If you think this is utter madness, it is. I have no proof of this. I cannot explain why this is so. Or why it makes sense to trust this. It doesn’t. It makes no sense at all. But he won’t go away.

If I sound like I belong to a cult, it’s because I do. Worse, most of my fellow cult members will tell you that I’ve got it all wrong. It doesn’t change anything. I really cannot stop talking this way about him, although I would really rather it were otherwise.

I don’t want him at all.

He will not leave me alone.

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