Identifying Jesus when he looks nothing like the gospel

More than a year into the pandemic, people are making tough decisions to leave jobs that don’t work for them, to leave relationships that are not healthy and mutually beneficial, to leave churches that don’t serve their faith well. They are rethinking their life’s ambitions and choosing to do it now, more convinced than ever that “tomorrow is not promised.” Friends and family members are doing a lot of house cleaning, throwing away clothes and shoes they haven’t worn this past year or any other. They are finding things that they don’t even recognize.

“What is this? When was I ever going to wear this? Why did I buy this?”

The is especially true of the Christian faith. More and more, I am hearing Christians ask in one way or another, “Who is this Jesus?” Who is this Jesus, who sits quietly while George Floyd is choked to death and Breonna Taylor is shot to death, who saves people via pyramid scheme, who comes in Democrat and Republican, who endorses the inhospitable treatment of immigrants and the storming of the U.S. Capitol?” They don’t know where he came from but they have no use for him and they are throwing him out. They are deconstructing. Because much of what we have learned about Jesus has been added on, piled on as we have told and heard the story about him.

Because Jesus did not hang a sign on his body and say, “All are welcome here.” Now, come to me. He didn’t box or brick himself in. He didn’t install himself as the leader of an institution. He didn’t name himself American Baptist, Assemblies of God, Catholic, Churches of Christ, Church of God, Church of God in Christ, United Methodist, Episcopalian, Holiness, Lutheran, Jehovah’s Witness, Pentecostal or Pentacostal- Holiness, Presbyterian, Protestant, Southern Baptist or any of its variations.

He didn’t work one day a week. He didn’t have office hours, which is not to suggest that he worked himself to death. No, he died on a cross. Instead, it just means that Jesus wasn’t in the same place at the same time from week to week. You wouldn’t find Jesus at his desk.

Jesus also didn’t tell people how to dress when they came to meet him. He didn’t say they had to deny their culture, forget their traditions, lose their “accent,” change their name and physical appearance. He didn’t say that we had to look like him in order for him to help us. He never ever said, “White was right.” That is another gospel.

And so is one that suggests Jesus comes in your favorite color— beige, black, brown, red, yellow or white. Jesus is not a doll or a dress, a pair of shoes or a car. What is this gospel that says if Jesus doesn’t look like you, then he is not the Savior of the world? And who is this Jesus that does?

Exclusive Jesus, my handpicked disciples and no more, Jesus didn’t rope off sections of the grass or the mountains for the Twelve. No green room. No VIP section. He didn’t hand out a program and tell people how long the service would or should be—though he is “the Way” (John 14.6). He never said, “My daddy built this church!” He didn’t tell women to be quiet or to stay in the kitchen or to watch the children while he preached. See Martha and Mary.

No verses, no versus, Jesus never said that men were better than women, that a woman needed a man—as if she is made deficient, of second- hand dirt, not the good God stuff. Jesus never said that men were the model human beings or that women were somehow defective, that she should be tossed out, thrown around, hit. Pit in my stomach because the Church doesn’t talk about that or other facts like—Jesus never married. He wasn’t a family man, no family pictures to include 2.5 children and a donkey.

Jesus was nobody’s boyfriend. He is also not a stand in until a woman’s husband comes along. No, he is the Savior alone. Instead, we should normalize singleness and leave single people alone. Pass that note along, along with the fact that the Church doesn’t know everything.

Jesus didn’t posit himself as the expert, hand out business cards and tell persons to make an appointment. He couldn’t even tell folks when he would be back (Matthew 24.36). Jesus didn’t expect persons to just listen to him. No, Jesus went into the neighborhood, sat down at the well in Samaria, went to a cemetery where a man was in crisis. Yes, Jesus said, “Follow me.” But he wasn’t shouting it from miles away, from behind a door or a pulpit  but extending the invitation face-to- face.

He wasn’t advertising three viewings of himself at 8, 10 and 11 a.m. Who is this Jesus that we offer? I didn’t ask for him, don’t remember when I picked him up but I have no use for him now. So, I threw this Jesus out. This kind of Christianity is just not working out for me.

How about you?

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Seeking to lead words and people to their highest and most authentic expression, I am the principal architect of a race/less world.

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