The comma

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell;
on the third day, he rose again from the dead…

Those words are found in The Apostle’s Creed, an early statement of belief from the Christian tradition. In some circles, agreement with it is regarded as the minimum test for orthodoxy.

And that’s OK, I guess, if you are into that sort of thing.

But where I find life and want to invest my energy isn’t in long flowery statements based on Greek philosophy, but rather in a comma.

Stay with me here. Look back at the statement above. See where it says, “…born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate…”? Two phrases, separated by a comma, and by more than 30 years in time.

Between being born and being judged by Pilate, Jesus of Nazareth lived some 30 odd years. The story goes that during that time, he fed hungry folks. He healed sick folks. He gave dignity back to people. He loved those no one loved. He lifted up those who had been trodden down. He affirmed women, he flouted oppressive religious laws, he confronted the Powers That Be and made a mockery of them. And less than 12 hours before he would be judged by Pilate, he ate dinner with his betrayer and gave him a second chance to do the right thing.

All of that and more is behind that comma.

The creeds relegate the life of Jesus to a mere comma as if it did not matter that he ate, drank, sweated, loved, belched, cried, pooped, lamented, ate with his friends, loved his mother and knew what it meant to be betrayed by people he loved.

And to be honest? All of that is far more interesting to me than whatever is alleged to have happened on the third day after they killed him. The life that was rejected by the creeds and replaced by a comma is, to me, worth imitating, worth learning from, worth aspiring to, and worth following.

I get asked sometimes why I stay in the Jesus tradition. It’s simple, really. It’s because I am fascinated with life that got replaced with a comma.