17
Apr
12

What Jesus?

By late in the first century AD, opinions on Jesus were already beginning to vary. With some saying he was just a man upon whom the divine essence descended to others who decided his physical body was just an illusion [Jesus only seemed real], many ignored what Jesus said about himself and what his closest friends and eyewitnesses said about him and his mission. For these and other reasons, the Apostle John wrote to churches denouncing such nonsense emphasizing the real historical Jesus.

The more things change the more they remain the same. Last week, Andrew Sullivan wrote the cover story for Newsweek: “Forget the Church; Follow Jesus.” Sullivan – self-described as British by birth, American by residence, politically conservative, Catholic, and openly gay – offers his perspectives as an author, editor, political commentator and blogger. Along with many before him, Sullivan serves up his personalized version of Christian faith in an a la carte – just a little Jesus without church-on-the-side fashion.

While I honestly appreciate Mr. Sullivan’s interest and faith in Jesus, he clearly embraces a Thomas Jefferson type version of the Savior and with scalpel in hand, slices and dices at will to create God in his own image. By denouncing the church and endorsing a cut-and-paste approach to the Scriptures, Sullivan embraces an idea of Jesus that reflects his own subjective sensibilities that in his opinion need not agree with the teaching of historical Christianity or at all harmonize with a faith community organized as a “church.”

In many respects Mr. Sullivan’s gets it right. Organized Christianity has its flaws and falls short of perfection. Sadly a good chunk of American Christianity embraces a gospel of prosperity, which teaches that living a Christian life will make you successful and rich. So many self-proclaimed Jesus followers either forget or simply reject Jesus’ call to self-denial, sacrificial generosity and to love even our enemies.  Sullivan is spot on in asserting, “something inside is telling us we need radical spiritual change.”

This is the difficulty. So many people want a Jesus who they like and feel good about. The historical Jesus known, described and quoted by the Apostle John is not particularly popular because he offends just about all of us in some way or another. Did John have him right?  Did Jefferson? What about Andrew Sullivan who sees him as one who “fled from crowds” and whose death on “the cross was not the point.”    In short, when it comes to Andrew Sullivan’s idea to “Forget the Church; Follow Jesus” I can’t help but ask “What Jesus?” In a culture steeped in relativism there seems to be so many of them around to chose from.   Just to be safe, I’ll stick with the Apostle John’s Jesus who he asserts to truly be “The Christ.”

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5 Responses to “What Jesus?”


  1. April 17, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Very good points…Thanks

  2. 2 jason
    April 17, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    I read this too, I always wonder, have they read the bible ever? This is a new favorite quote:

    “quoted by the Apostle John is not particularly popular because he offends just about all of us in some way or another.”

  3. 3 Jennifer Potter
    April 18, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    I found his article to be thought-provoking, insightful and very well written. I’d love to sit down with him for lunch and a conversation on God, Jesus, faith and church.

  4. 5 mazsamem
    April 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    How I got here, I don’t recall. It all started off with “Satan’s Blog”. Then click link, clink link…and here I be. 🙂 Just want to give you a thumbs up. As a Catholic, I’m frequently ashamed by what some others in my faith believe. Jesus ISN’T a “feel good” Saviour–and you’re spot on about the faulty wealth & health gospel so many go for. Thank you for your enlightening comments. I’ll be back to read more.


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re: the random-ness

Husband. Father. Senior Pastor of Parkview Community Church in Glen Ellyn, IL.

Ok...so you've located the place where I put down my random thoughts. The key word here is random: music, sports, art, food, books, news, spiritual musings, weird stories, etc. I'm especially interested in how everyday experiences of life intersect with the ancient stories of Scripture. Thanks for reading.
April 2012
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