Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Would the real Jesus please stand up...
One of the parts of my job as pastor of a new kind of church is that I get to facilitate a series of discussions we call Theology Pubs. They are designed to be a safe place where we can talk openly and honestly about our experience and ideas of some of the elementary ideas of the Christian faith. Last week we talked about Jesus (good place to start huh?). We discussed the historical man that lived in 1st century Palestine, and compared that to the Jesus we see in scripture, and the Jesus that popular culture identifies, and the Jesus Christian churches worship. Depending on your experience and history and worldview those four men are very different. When ever we discuss this topic at Theology Pubs we undoubtedly come to a point where we wrestle with the tendency we all have, whether we are people of faith or not, to turn Jesus into a bigger better version of ourselves, which ironically is pretty much the opposite of what the historical and biblical Jesus was all about.
I think most of us are pretty good at constructing a “savior” that looks like us, and acts like us; a Jesus who likes the people we like, hates the people we hate and supports our world view and behaviors. A Jesus who condemns the behaviors and worldviews that we conveniently condemn. Wars and violence have been waged with this understanding of Jesus. Policies and systems have been enacted because of this idea of Jesus, and as much as I hate to say it, the core ideas of forgiveness, sacrifice and transformation have been modified at best, and destroyed at worse, all in an effort to serve or share Jesus.
I realize that those of you who follow my blog or are reading this, are probably thinking “Ya! Those people I disagree with have perverted the message of Jesus” but I think Paul was correct when he wrote to his friends in Rome and said “we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). I don’t think the political left has a corner on the Jesus perspective, nor does the political right. We all manipulate, mold and create a Jesus that serves us. Which makes me think that God was warning us more about our selfish sinful nature and using God/Jesus/Holy Spirit (It’s a trinity thing!) to profit and get what we want, than saying “God damnit” when we crack our knuckles on the engine block of our 1978 Yamaha XS 400 we are restoring in the garage…(Sorry I’m telling you a bit more about myself than you need to know..) when he commanded us not to use the Lord’s name in vain (Exodus 20:7).
I guess what I am most convicted by this Lenten season is how easily my desire to be a follower of Jesus, and being one who is transformed by the one sent by God to show us a new way, can turn into a desire to manipulate the divine to get what I want, whether it be comfort, wealth, power or influence. Lent reminds me that my life needs the transforming work of a savior, not that Jesus needs to justify my world view. My prayer for myself and for all of us, is that as we wrestle with the transforming work of Jesus, examine the sin, both personal and corporate, in our lives that we would find peace wholeness and life as disciples.
I’ll keep stumbling through Lent. I hope yours has been equally as challenging!