Don’t get me wrong…I think he should be.

In fact, for years I tried to force him into that mold—correct, nice and proper. I always thought Jesus would be comfortable in most Presbyterian churches and subscribe to The Westminster Confession of Faith. If his incarnation had taken place in modern times, I was also quite certain Jesus would be a Republican.

That was before the real Jesus showed up.

Perhaps the most salient fact about Jesus is that he surprises us. Well, “surprise” may not be the right word. Jesus “offends,” “amazes,” “shocks” and, of course, “confuses” us. And Jesus refuses to fit into the mold we have designed for him.

That wouldn’t be a big deal if Jesus were just a man. There is nothing surprising about people who do weird things. I can deal with a psychotic megalomaniac or, perhaps, a neurotic religious nut. But when Jesus offends, amazes, shocks and confuses me, that is another matter altogether because he isn’t just a man. He is God. Not only that. Jesus said he was God and that, of course, would be sick if it weren’t for the fact of the blind men’s beggar’s cups, the cripples’ crutches and the dead’s caskets…all thrown away because of him. When that dead man got up and walked around, I decided I would listen to what he said…and he said he was God.

Lew Wallace, the 19th century military leader and writer, said this: “After six years given to the impartial investigation of Christianity, as to its truth or falsity, I have come to the deliberate conclusion that Jesus Christ was the Messiah of the Jews, the Savior of the world, and my personal Savior.”

That’s so true. But an “impartial” investigation of Christianity isn’t enough, is it? The relationship isn’t a relationship of the mind…but of the heart. I’ve walked with Jesus for almost a lifetime and the more I hang out with him, the more I’ve learned that he isn’t what I always thought.

Jesus Doesn’t Like Religious People

Jesus doesn’t like religious people very much…and Presbyterians are quite religious. He was never angry with the prostitutes (Luke 7), the woman caught in adultery (John 8), or the woman who had been through a series of husbands (John 4). His harshest words were reserved for those who were very religious and did everything right.

That can be disturbing to someone like me. I am, in fact, probably the most “religious” person you know. I teach religious stuff to religious students at a religious institution. I write religious books. I teach religious seminars and I preach religious sermons. I’m really religious and I thought Jesus would be pleased with that because…well…because he was religious too. Now, I’m not too sure.

I’ve made Jesus into a Presbyterian. Is that crazy or what?

In fact, not only have I come to see some things about him, I’ve come to see some things about me that are not altogether flattering. I’ve seen the number of times I’ve used religion as a substitute for God, a method whereby I could be self-righteous and a badge of honor among the less religious.

Now all of that isn’t looking so good. I repent.

Be careful about religion. It will make you feel you are close to God, you are pure, and you are serving him…when you’re not.

Jesus Refuses to Pick Sides

Jesus refuses to pick sides and I’m always picking sides. A friend of mine told me a lot of years ago, “Steve, I don’t know where you will be in 20 years but, wherever you are, you’ll be waving a flag for something.”

Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees is so harsh we can’t read it without wincing. And yet, on more than one occasion, he is at a dinner party with Pharisees. What’s with that?

Jesus reached out to the oppressed and was on the side of the poor but, at the same time, became friends with the oppressor and the ones that made the poor poor. I just don’t understand why he loved Matthew or why Jesus was so close to the affluent.

Jesus was clear about sexual morality. In the Sermon on the Mount he went further than the law in his comments about lust being as bad as the actual sin of adultery. I can understand that…but why in the world is he spending time with adulterers?

Jesus is living in the middle of an occupied country and yet he is often seen reaching out to the occupiers. Man, that just doesn’t make sense.

I want to say, “Jesus, just choose a side and stand with your side.”

Jesus says, “I don’t have a side.”

I’m quite political. I have, on occasion, even been called opinionated…well…uh…maybe more than occasionally.

The more I walk with Jesus, the more I’m learning to see people through his eyes. That means I’m called to reach out to people who aren’t the kind of people I want to know…people who are on the “other side.” I like Presbyterians and Republicans but I have a feeling that Jesus wouldn’t spend as much time with Presbyterians and Republicans as I do.

Jesus isn’t Very Proper

Jesus isn’t very proper. Presbyterians may be mean, sinful and arrogant…but we are always proper.

As you look at the social events Jesus attended, you begin to realize that he is not necessarily someone you would invite to your dinner party. Talk about offensive…offensive as in affirming a prostitute who crashes the party, making wine so a party wouldn’t be spoiled, and pointing out the ego at the head table.

So be like Jesus…

Go out and do something that causes an uptight Christian to doubt your salvation.

Time to Draw Away

Read Luke 4:18-19 & Luke 7:36-50

What does your personal Jesus look like? How has the real Jesus offended, shocked and/or confused you? Jesus is big on love, forgiveness, inclusion and acceptance. And the longer we hang out with him, the more we are too. After all, Jesus has a way of breaking down walls…starting with our own.