This, That, & the Other

This is a personal Christian blog by Marsha Roland, sharing thoughts and inspirations to encourage others.

Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Everybody's Jesus by Robert Bruce


The name alone has such power. Since Christ arrived on Earth over two millennia ago, His name has produced peace and strife, unity and division, sheer joy and pure anger. Drop Christ’s name into any conversation, and you’ll usually notice a reaction. Perhaps it’s a broad smile from a fellow small group member, or a startled stare from an unbelieving co-worker. Wars have been fought, court cases commenced, and families divided—all because of the name of Jesus.

Yet in Scripture, Jesus acted with profound love and generosity. We find Him forgiving an adulteress who faced the death penalty, taking time to talk to a Samaritan woman at a well, and accepting a brutal, unjust punishment with nary a word. So it’s easy to wonder, Why is the name of Jesus so controversial? After the life of sacrifice He lived and the spiritual example He set, why do some people get downright bitter when He’s mentioned?

In “The Real Jesus,” Dr. Stanley discusses the consistent nature of Christ. Jesus didn’t play favorites. He didn’t forgive the tax collector while ignoring the adulteress. He crossed barriers and erased cultural divides. Jews and Samaritans didn’t mix, yet there Jesus was—discussing eternal life with the Samaritan woman at the well. “The Father sent Him to send a message,” Dr. Stanley says, “And one part of that message was this: Everybody is included. Everybody can be forgiven.”

Perhaps, then, the reason so many people get upset over Jesus is not so much because of who He is, but because of how we’ve portrayed Him to the unbelieving world. As believers, we’re Christ’s representatives to humanity. Made in the image of God, we are the only example of Christian love some people will ever see. But what type of example have we displayed? Do our actions support our professed faith? And at the end of the day, do we project the same image of Jesus that He exhibited during His time on earth—that of a loving, caring, humble, unprejudiced soul who devoted His life to serving others? Sometimes I think we Christians monopolize Jesus. We project our personalities, our attitudes, and our biases onto Him but fail to grasp the true nature of Christ, the real Jesus. We seem to forget that He lived as a lower-class Jewish carpenter in the mid-East. Jesus wasn’t a Methodist or a Baptist, a Republican or a Democrat. Neither was He wealthy or even “middle class.” He was a Savior. And He came for everyone. So I guess the question is this: Do we, like Jesus, reach out to the “other person”? Does our faith cross party lines, denominational divides, and perceived cultural and social boundaries?

With the election season quickly approaching, we’re sure to hear sound bites from all types of political figures and religious leaders. Some will certainly drop Jesus’ name into conversations on news channels, in televised debates, and at organized rallies across the country. And to them, I would simply ask: Is your Jesus genuine? Is He as relevant to you—a middle-aged, wealthy politician in America—as He would be to the forlorn and abused child in Sudan, the homeless and drunken grandfather on the streets of New York, or the widowed and destitute mother of four in Kabul? Or is he fabricated and exclusionary, a prop who will appeal to a particular demographic, a platform on which to gain votes and power?Jesus is unflinching, unchanging. Hebrews 13:8 simply says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

In an ever-evolving world marked by wars, terrorism, and extreme social division, it’s comforting to know that there is Someone who can appeal to all of us, cutting through the muddiness of our personal biases and culturally influenced interpretations of Him. Yet we have a choice. We can allow “the vine” to work inside of us (John 15:5). Christ can empower us to live as He lived—to reach out to our “Samaritans” in grace and love while still communicating God’s truth. Or we can draw our line in the sand and shut the doors to our Christian communities, treating our enemies like enemies and lobbing bombs of judgment and vilification. Meanwhile, the log in our own eyes grows larger with each toss.

Though our words are important, our lives will be the basis on which God judges us one day. It’s easy to write an article such as this, or to make a speech and stand behind a podium. But in a culture which so often tunes out Christian views, our lives, when directed by the Holy Spirit, may be the only testimony we truly have. If we believe Jesus really is for everyone, then imagine the impact if the way we live reflected that truth.