There’s rumors He even thinks Himself a king, of a kingdom of paupers, simpletons and rogues; the whores all seem to love Him, and the drunks propose a toast. And they say, “Surely God is with us. Well, surely God is with us.” Rich Mullins, Surely God is With Us, The Jesus Record
It’s easy to rewrite Jesus. At least, it seems to be easier to rewrite Jesus than to live with the reality of him.
I’m fascinated by the ways Jesus gets rewritten.
Some of us tidy him up, making him much more respectable than he apparently chose to be during his time here, while others water him down, making him far less passionate and real than the Jesus his contemporaries would recognise.
I am not sure why blowing up part of the image of Jesus and minimising or blurring the rest works for so many people. I suppose it provides a more comfortable fit, if you don’t look too closely at what you’ve done. But to me, it robs the story of a lot of truth, and a lot of opportunity.
A cozy, manageable Jesus who accepts all beliefs, all choices, all actions as equally true or correct, who doesn’t mind much of anything and doesn’t want to offend anyone, doesn’t fit the Jesus of the Bible.
That Jesus would have had little reason to endure excruciating torture and execution to reconcile a fallen world to a perfect God.
That Jesus wouldn’t have said such uncomfortable things as ‘No one can come to the Father except through me’. Or even ‘then neither do I condemn you‘ – I mean, what would there be to condemn?
Unfortunately, a proper, respectable Jesus doesn’t quite align with the record either.
Jesus didn’t generally associate with ‘the best people’. In fact, when he did happen to run into the best people, he usually so deeply offended them that they promptly set about considering how hard it would be to bump him off.
I know I’m not the only one who cheers when Jesus rubs the noses of the Bible Story Pharisees in their arrogance and legalism.
But far from being an example of wrong in their day, the REAL Pharisees were the best and brightest of the religious Jews of their time.
Rich, successful, educated, and deeply religious, these were the folks you’d only dream of being if you were a good dedicated believer of their time. The megachurch pastors, the celebrity Christian writers, the Bible scholars of their day.
And the people Jesus hung out with? The poor, the illiterate, the uncouth. The town whore. Brawlers and thieves. The homeless guys panhandling at Judea’s intersections.
Our stated goal as Christians is to be like Jesus.
But let’s be real: if asked to select our dinner companions from a lineup of wealthy Christian celebrity, renown Bible scholar, town whore, a couple of homeless guys, and an unscrupulous IRS agent, who would we REALLY pick?
I’m not suggesting that Christians ditch all our current friends and realign our social calendar to look like Jesus’, but it does kind of make me wonder if my view of ‘acceptable’ or ‘valuable’ is more narrow than is safe under that pesky ‘judge not’ clause.
Much as I prefer to look at my own sin and think “Well at least I’m not as bad as… the town whore … the drug dealer… the politician …” according to everything the Bible says, I am.
Compared to the perfection of God, there’s no difference between me and any of them.
Or any difference there is, seems to be much less important than my similarities to the Pharisee!
(By the way, if you aren’t familiar with Rich Mullins’ music, the rest of that song quoted above is even more delightfully, irreverently thought provoking. As is ALL of his music.)