Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Real Jesus

Other than at Christmas time, the Easter season is perhaps the one time of the year that people start to think about Jesus. Who was he? What was his mission? And what does he want me to do? For the past 2,000 years, we’ve been asking those questions. In some ways, Easter has become for the Christian church our Super Bowl—our opportunity to engage people who are asking these questions.

I read an article this week from Andrew Sullivan titled Christianity in Crisis. He put a different spin on the issue of Jesus, the Church, and the seeker. He thinks the church has gotten it wrong. We have forgotten the simple messages that Jesus tried to teach us. And, as a result, it has placed our faith and Christianity in crisis. Perhaps, the Easter season is a good time to take stock of our situation.

Andrew says that maybe we put too much value on the physical miracles that Jesus performed and not enough on the spiritual miracles. Jesus offered some truly radical ideas that we have somewhat forgotten. It seems that throughout the ages we have recreated Jesus to fit into our image of who we think Jesus ought to be. We want him to fit into our plan. But have we missed the spirit and the very essence of who Jesus is in the process?

First, Jesus made it very clear that we are to put God first in all things. He said ultimately God is our Father, and we were made in his image. He said we are to love one another, but he also went on to make it clear that we are to also love our enemies and to forgive them. Ask yourself this question. Do we really do that in the Body of Christ?

Jesus also taught us that we need to give up power over others. Ouch! I think that’s one the church has a lot of problems with. Jesus submitted himself to the cross and did not make any attempt to challenge any earthly authority. If you try to obtain power over others, it will always come with the implied use of violence. Jesus’ ministry by all accounts neither tried to obtain power nor the use of violence.

A clear examination of the Gospels also indicates we are to give up our material wealth and follow him. Do we do that in our current materialistic and wealth-driven culture? When’s the last time you heard a sermon on that topic?

And, finally, Sullivan points out we are to become servants and humble ourselves. Ask yourself this question. Does this look like any form of Christianity that you see here in America? Would the real Jesus be welcome in today’s church or at Easter service? Would we recognize him if he showed up? Or perhaps the version we have created fits comfortably into today’s modern view of the Christian faith. Maybe, during this Easter season, these are things we can think about and reflect upon and pray for wisdom and discernment.

We need the real Jesus—not one that has become politicized or wrapped up and disguised as the American Dream personified.

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