What Jesus Are You Following?

If you are not a follower of Jesus, I openly apologize to you for the sad, mistaken, misguided, and flat out wrong picture of Him we have given you.

If you call yourself a follower of Jesus, you may need to disconnect from the media, your theological bent and your denominational rules to relearn who Jesus really is and what he actually said. Try just reading just the four Gospels for a while.  Find sermons to listen to that are about what Jesus said and did.  This may be harder to do than you expect since much of the church preaches more about Paul than about Jesus.

Jesus is pro-life. Now before you pat yourselves on the back, note that he was pro all life – from the unborn baby to the hardened criminal regardless of race, creed, color, or sin.  So he would be saddened by abortion, and the death penalty, and our obsessive preoccupation with guns.

Jesus is pro-choice.  He always allows us to make our own decisions up to, and including, whether we choose to follow Him.  He never forces us to do so, never threatens, never demeans and never ceases to show mercy when our choice is wrong.

Few of us are emulating Him as we have been directed to do.  We aren’t offer hope and help. Instead, we’re more interested in telling people what they should think and do – sometimes even how they should feel.

We feel the need to push our agenda and even to demean and vilify those who do not agree with our religious rules. Further, much of the church has adopted an “ends justify the means” mentality which is counter to anything Jesus taught. Some of our evangelical leaders are willing to partner with anyone in government to create laws to “protect” specific values that they have deemed most important. For example, Franklin Graham seems to not see the incongruity of demonizing all of Disney and calling for a boycott because of a cartoon homosexual couple kissing and, yet, endorsing a man for president who profits from real strip clubs and casinos.

We seem to think we need to save Jesus!  We do this ignoring the fact that He did not feel the need to defend Himself (Matt 27: 12-14) but understood the greater power of sacrificing Himself.  Additionally, He severely admonished Peter when he chose to defend Him with the sword. (Matt 16:23, Mark 8:33) Still, we continue to choose to “live by the sword” rather than living sacrificially for others.

We apparently have forgotten that Jesus and His message of love, inclusion and acceptance has survived for over 2000 years without the help of the American Christian and, often, in opposition to the political powers that were in place.

We have become a people who are more focused on the current trends in ministry, the propaganda of political parties and a fear/protectionist mentality than we are with Jesus.  Maybe it’s because we never slow down or power down long enough to contemplate the real Jesus.  We want Jesus in a tidy box we’ve created for Him, free of complexities, ambiguities, or real challenges.  We want to create Jesus in our image more than we aspire to be like Him.

We preach to the world about grace and mercy and love while we ignore or dismiss or sometimes even promote the injustices, the racism, the discrimination, the trafficking of people, which goes on around us.  We fear or demean or abuse our “enemies”.  We don’t love them.  If we’re honest, we aren’t even doing a good job of loving our neighbors.

We quote “fear not, for I am with you” while we cheer building walls and defend buying guns to protect ourselves and our possessions.

We pick and choose which verses are literal, which are symbolic, which are hyperboles and which are time specific based on our own comfort, desires, or cultural norms.  We often fail to pray for clarity, search out original language or entertain the notion that what we’ve always believed or been told might be in error.

Jesus was radical. He was challenging. He was, at times, ambiguous. The empire and the religious leaders feared His message of love and inclusion and acceptance.  This is still happening today. And still today, His message is the same.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40 (emphasis mine)

 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28

It is simple to understand, and yet, difficult to do.  We are His representatives. We are His voice in a hard and hurting world.

We must do better.

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