Why Jesus Wouldn’t Be A Good Christian Pt.2

Contrary to Hollywood’s belief, I don’t think Jesus looked like Jim Caviezel. And, contrary to Kanye West and his video Jesus Walks, I don’t think Jesus is anything like Kanye West (though Jesus probably looked more like Kanye than Jim). Somewhere along the way, we turned Jesus into a beautiful blonde locked, blue-eyed, American Idol. He was in fact not American. He was not a product of western thought. He was a middle-eastern man, which is why we have over the years lost the beauty of his Jewish ascent and his Eastern practices.

Western Christians love boxes. We love to put Jesus in the box. We love to put the Bible in a box, hence our unhealthy infatuation with systematic theology. We like to put our community in boxes. We put people in boxes because our narcissism can’t handle something that is not us, or because we feel the need to label. It’s all too simple. Unfortunately, it’s not Jesus. As Augustine put it, “If you cannot understand it, it’s not God.” Jesus takes all of our boxes and destroys them. This was the beauty of the Kingdom of God. It was upside down. Jesus would never have fit into our box building games.

Ever since Gutenberg made in 1450 and Luther translated the Bible into his common language of German, Christianity has progressed primarily a faith of individuals. At that point, there was no longer any need of public readings or liturgy, everything I needed I could get on my own. While this was a good thing, Christianity was always a public affair. Most of the New Testament was written  to communities. The book Acts describes the intensity of their communal life. Jesus lived his life in community with the twelve. The whole Jewish lifestyle was built upon this sense of community. For Jewish people, salvation wasn’t an individual thing as my Evangelical church education taught, salvation was a communal affair. When we crown our Theologians, Missionaries, Pastors for their knowledge and service, Jesus was to busy crowning the homeless, the sick and those who didn’t belong in the community. Not the pinnacles of faith. Jesus always moved down the ladder. For Jesus, sanctification and holiness was not determined by how much you knew, or by how popular you were, for him it was about inviting those who were not included. Jesus wanted these people to eat with them, to pray with them and to celebrate with them.

Jesus knew that spirituality didn’t have to deal with Bible memorization (although by Rabbinic law, Jesus had the whole Hebrew Scriptures memorized) or with who could move themselves up the chains as a Rabbi, as a Pharisee, or as a Zealot. For Jesus, true spirituality was about moving down. It was about letting go. For him, it wasn’t about your qualifications as a Biblical Scholar, it’s about your ability to love, to forgive, to make peace, it was broken people transforming their pain, instead of breaking more people. This was the politics of Jesus, politics that are driven not by power, but by peace, love, forgiveness, reconciliation and helping others deal with their pain. Something that Western Christianity has really struggled with. People who are not us, our group, our beliefs, people with pain do not fit in our box, because like Jesus, they destroy them. The invitation of these people into our lives will not be popular, but it draws us to the heart of Jesus, who celebrated these people, this type of Kingdom.

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10 thoughts on “Why Jesus Wouldn’t Be A Good Christian Pt.2

  1. Thank you. This is something I have been telling people for awhile and why I cannot attend churches steeped in Modernity. Jesus is not the Bible and most assuredly the bible is NOT Jesus. We Westerners of the Modern Age love our neat little categories and boxes. We want to package everything for consumption, make it fit into our pigeonholes. But God is too big, too great, and too mysterious for that.

    I do have a question about the Augustinian quote: ” As Augustine put it, “If you cannot understand it, it’s not God.”” Is this right, because this seems to support categories, boxes and labels rather than refute them?

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Hey Paul,
      Its actually “If you can understand it, its not God”, another quote that he put out was “I cannot respect any God, that I can figure out.”

      A question Paul,
      How would one go about bringing this type of environment to a Church. How would you want to implement a Church outside of these boxes?

      • Thank you. That is what I was thinking.
        As to your question. I think that we need to start by regaining, relearning what it means to be community. Seems that with the advent of the Enlightenment with its emphasis on the individual we have slowly lost real community. I mean I remember as a kid we knew all of our neighbors, but as years went by we stopped. I have lived in neighborhoods where no one knew anyone else. I see that in our churches. Sure we come together on Sunday and maybe even other days too, but I see a collection of individuals, kind of like parallel play in toddlers, worshiping along side one another but not actually together. Yes there a pockets of people worshiping together, but overall. I think that this is a place to begin. But I di need to think more about it.

  2. Great thoughts Mike. Christians need to begin studying eastern thought and culture as a foundational aspect of understanding scripture.

  3. Dave Truitt says:

    Nice.

  4. Berna says:

    Thank you! Your statements float around in my head and I am always seeking structruce to understand what I’m hearing. I have this idea of Jesus being a guy who works in a car garage if he were living now. That’s silly, I know, but the Hollywoodization of him never was quite firm in my thinking. If he is the Word, if he is the Life, then we cannot even begin to cast him in a movie, Leonardo or not! You help me in hearing God’s words without distractions. Keep going!

  5. Thomas Hogan says:

    Community begins with an inner-commitment to those around us; it truly is a giving-yourself-away paradigm that runs in complete opposition to a consumerist/materialist mindset. Jesus not only emulated this, Jesus was this. His thing was “All of me for any of you.” (Bonhoeffer knows what’s up)

    Getting to that place is more than deconstruction, it’s an indictment on the very fabric of church models. I laugh every time i hear a preacher/teacher say something like, “we are not about money, but you need money to reach people” OMG! are you kidding me! Give to Ceaser what is his (money with his face on it) and give to God what is His (People with His Image on it) (Hint: we are His!)

    Living in community doesn’t forsake money but it does forsake man pleasing and accumulation. Embracing minimalism isn’t about eastern philosophy, it’s about giving to what matters. The church has had it backwards for a century – we became the focus of our accumulation and power. That power and wealth is for the lost and hurting.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Thomas you are absolutely right. Bonhoeffer knew that the call to community was only as valuable as the call to solitude. This was his concluding thought in Life Together. And, you’re right, that forsaking of money and power (which really is the beauty of the cross isn’t it?) was totally the way of Jesus. He took only what he needed. Love your thoughts and would love to hear more.

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