Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Relatable Jesus

You know, I've seen so much in my lifetime that passes for the way Christians think they are supposed to act and speak. This has produced a subculture where a certain lingo or jargon starts to overtake the person's interactions with people. I've seen them tilt at windmills and go on crusades to try to make other people behave according to Christian principles when quite frankly, it's only an illusion that we live in a "Christian society." All the while, some Christians will hang out together and shut out the world, developing a "siege mentality" (us vs them) and reject anything and anyone that doesn't look like them.  

At the same time, I've watched unbelievers laugh up their sleeves at such believers for years and years, (and learn to discount everything that every Christian tells them). And I've watched those same believers be mystified by that reaction (or worse yet, chalk the reaction up to 'persecution' and keep behaving in the same way). 

And even the term "unbelievers" is so ... prejudiced, isn't it? It panders to the myth that there are only two types of people in the world - people who are 'believers' (i.e., fundamentalist Christians) and people who aren't. 

Which brings me to the topic of this post. 

"White Mask" photo by podpad at
I don't remember ever reading about Jesus turning anyone away because that person was a drunk, a prostitute, a Roman collaborator (i.e., tax-collector), or non-Jewish, or who had hair that was too long (or short) or body odour. I don't recall Him leading protest marches, burning Roman bath-houses, heading up petitions, or insisting on a dress code. People who were looking for something more in their lives flocked to Him, and He loved them all. True, He didn't participate in their dysfunction, but He also didn't shut Himself away from them and reject them just because they didn't act or think like Him. He spoke the language of the common people. He told stories that people [and not just the elite few] could relate to; He didn't (although He could have) expound at length about the ills of His society. 

He accepted people. He really cared about them. About the only thing that He came out against was the very kind of thing that I was describing in the first couple of paragraphs of this post: hypocrisy, and cruelty in the name of God. 

He didn't come to change society. He didn't come to change systems. He came to love people, to show them what God was really like. You see, people in His day had gotten it into their heads that God was all about following rules and pounding you on the head if you didn't follow them. Jesus came to change all that. He came to make a way for people to have a relationship with God. Pure and simple. Not to solve the age-old question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin (and why would they want to?) ... and not to exclude people on the basis of their differences. He came to demonstrate to the world what they never knew before He came: that God is love. He's not about punishment; He doesn't need to be appeased. Jesus appeased Him. Jesus took the punishment for us. Period. And that is the Good News.

Maybe it's time that Christians remembered that, because it seems that a lot of us have forgotten. We put on masks. We hide behind the denominational label, behind the church pews, and we take pot shots in frustration at the world and the people in it. We make ourselves unapproachable by the very things that we do that we think show others that we are dedicated followers of Jesus. 

Yet Jesus was the most relatable human being ever

If we are un-relatable, if people can't relate to us or don't want to be around us, it doesn't mean that we're "doing something right." It means that we are doing something wrong. We are (in our efforts to show the world that we're His) excluding them and pushing them away from our lives, ruining every opportunity to be the salt and light that Jesus said we already are just because we hang around Him

What I'm suggesting is not that we stop standing for what is right. What I AM suggesting is that we take a good, long, hard look at ourselves, that we open our hearts and ask God to show us how we are keeping or driving people away from Him by the way we act, the people we hang around with (and don't hang around with) and the language that we use without even being aware of it. If we ask Him to show us those blind spots and to make us more like He is, I think He will be delighted to show us - and love through us, mask-free - without us getting in the way.

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