I read stories about self-professed Christians who have some weird ideas of what Christianity is about. I see comments to stories and in social media threads that proclaim loudly beliefs about Christianity that are anything but Christian. I’m not talking about disagreements over policies or politics either. Christians legitimately have a wide range of views about policies and politics. There are legitimate debates about the means of accomplishing what Jesus calls us to. I’m not talking about these debates.
No, instead, when I read these things, I come away with the conclusion that there are Christians who literally have no idea what Christianity is about. Some of these people I assume have been going to church their entire lives. And I wonder – how did they come to these beliefs about Christianity when these beliefs are in direct conflict with Jesus? I don’t know.
It’s the Gospel of Jesus versus the Gospel of Jesus we’d prefer. To buy into this preferred Gospel, there’s a few things you need to do. 1. Forget all the things Jesus actually said. 2. Don’t open a Bible. 3. Limit Jesus to a couple of simple ideas without any real implications to life.
Here’s what this might sound like. Forget all the stories about Jesus and the poor, the foreigner, difficult sayings, and afflicting the comfortable. Those stories get in the way. Instead, re-write the stories to match your beliefs. That’s a Scripture that people will actually read.
Remember the feeding of the 5000 Matthew 14, Mark 6, and Luke 9? Especially when the disciples want to send the people away to feed themselves and Jesus says “You feed them.” The new version of the story would have Jesus agreeing with the disciples, probably calling the people lazy, and something about always looking for a handout. This new Jesus is great. No more concern for the poor and hungry – they are on their own. Sounds just like Jesus, doesn’t it?
Remember when Jesus said this classic line in Luke 6:27-28 – “‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Yeah, forget that. The new Jesus says screw that – forget about loving your enemy. Instead bomb them, kill them, make them pay! That’s what tough guy Jesus would do. Make them submit. Doesn’t that sound so much more satisfying? Jesus, you are on a roll now.
Remember Paul’s writing in Galatians 3:28 – “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
New improved Jesus isn’t interested in any of this – it’s too mushy. Instead, new Jesus is focused on dividing and separating people. Yay – another belief that magically aligns with our preferences.
Remember John 3:16-17 –
“‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. “
Clearly, this needs to be altered. Jesus didn’t come to save people, did he? Wasn’t it really more about pointing out how terrible they were. Throw the book at them Jesus. How else are we supposed to feel good about ourselves unless we can compare ourselves to “those” people who screw things up? Come on Jesus, we all know that following you is more about being the morality police. Plus judging people is a lot of fun. Why would you ever give that up, Jesus?
Remember Jesus saying in Luke 14:27 – “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Clearly, this needs to change. Maybe Jesus could sound a bit more realistic. What if instead of this costly discipleship stuff, we had Jesus say: “Whoever does not use the bible as a weapon to make others submit to your own interpretation cannot be my disciples.” This goes along with a similar verse we’d prefer Jesus to say – you must not ever be made to feel uncomfortable in your faith or do some self-reflection that causes you question your beliefs to see if they are in alignment with actual Jesus.
Isn’t this fun!? How about one more – Matthew 25. Forget about Jesus saying such things as: “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)
New Jesus’ statement would sound something like this: When I was hungry, you told me to get a job and stop asking for a hand out. When I was thirsty, you told me where the public water fountain was in town. When I was naked, you had me arrested for public exposure – we can’t have naked people roaming the streets you know. When I was a stranger, you told me to go back where I came from. When I was sick, you told me it was my own fault. When I was in prison, you told me I should have obeyed the laws.
New Jesus is pretty good huh? Every situation gets a response and no requirement that we do anything. Every response shows how the victim is to blame for their situation. Brilliant. And it saves us from having to spend any money, time, or energy on people that should be out of sight. Besides, these people make us all feel uncomfortable, so they should be ushered out of public view – that should solve the problem, right?
New Jesus has the stories I know we’ll read. He’s got all the answers. He doesn’t require anything from us, is concerned with our comfort, moves the poor and outcast out of view, and allows us to focus on the people that really matter – each one of us. Finally a personal savior that recognizes my importance! Now there’s a Jesus that would be popular.
Except that’s not who Jesus was, or is. Thank God for that.