Yes. I know. Jesus IS real. But is he real to you? Has he made a noticeable difference in your life? What does the before & after picture look like for you? Does the you before Jesus and the you after Jesus- look different or just like more of the same? How does your life look unique compared to those who do NOT believe in Jesus as the Savior of the world? Out of the three monotheistic religions of the world: Christianity, Islam & Judaism –Christianity is the exclusive ticket to what? To heaven? To a better life on earth? To know God? What is unique about what you believe? In your mind, why does Christianity trump all other religions?
If you’re someone who says you only believe in God and that everything else, including the technicality of identifying with Jesus is a toss up of irrelevance, then might you just as well take your pick of Islam or Judaism?
Both hold a similar historical perspective and contain strands of the lineage Christians follow all the way through the old testament. If you look at Christianity from the perspective of a Jew, which would be hard to authentically accomplish unless you ARE a Jew–the idea that their divinely appointed King came in the form of man who was mostly concerned with helping others instead of ruling over others as Divine royalty would sound completely absurd. Quite frankly if I were a Jew by heritage I’d be offended too or perhaps I’d just laugh off the claim of a carpenter as King. Consider the shock of a woman who holds the expectation that her husband will come as a knight in shining armor yet only soon discovers that he really is by all outward appearance just a bastard child who grew up with no real occupation, attracting a lot of attention by claiming to be God’s very son.
We claim to be the Bride of Christ. But do we really know what that means? Are we the bride of Christ by our own choosing, by believing in him, by accepting the oddity of a salvation similar to an apocalyptic unfolding of death & darkness followed by a mysterious resurrection & ascension? Or is our allegiance to Christ likened to that of an arranged marriage? Perhaps you’re with Jesus, but you don’t yet know him. And oh the many years of “getting to know” that it takes to establish a deeper love than that first quickening of the Spirit that drew us to him.
Can you blame those who grew up with a different tradition of faith or expectation of redemption when they emphatically deny the relationship of Jesus to God just as much as Christians emphatically deny the relationship of Muhammad to God–because it just seems so strange and WRONG to them personally? What is it that drew you to Christianity? I think it would be safe to say that a large portion of Christians claim their faith by identifying with a large group of Christians who claim their identity of Christianity by associating with yet another larger group of Christians. Yet if ever confronted by Jesus Himself with the question, “Who do YOU say that I am?” your recycled answer might garner this response from Christ, “Depart from me. You don’t know who I am and I don’t know who you are
Muslims believe in Jesus as a prophet sent to guide the children of Israel and to foretell of Muhammad’s time on earth. So historically, give or take a few points here and there, Muslims and Jews and Christians all believe that Jesus existed. So Jesus IS real. See? But again, is Jesus real to you? What about a child from Biblical times who grew up in the temple under the teachings of a very Jewish father during Jesus’ ministry on earth? Perhaps he sat silently in the back of the temple when Jesus taught his sarcastic yet sharp truths about the prevalent religious hypocrisy–feverishly praying for his own father, a Pharisee who was in the front pew defending his point against Jesus–the Messiah Claimant. Whose side would this boy take? Maybe he would sneak out at night and observe Jesus teaching on the mountainside. Would he not be confused by the tension felt between his faithful father who was esteemed in the community and Jesus who seemed to question his father’s integrity as a religious leader? How would he reconcile this with his strong desire to get to know this man who called himself Jesus and healed people right before the boy’s eyes?
It might more accurately be concluded that the little boy would do what most of us do today–accept the teaching of our fathers over our own quest for truth.
The Bible talks a lot about searching. But have you ever searched for something that you could not find? It’s very frustrating and can leave us with our hands thrown up to the air, cursing under our breath about how we just knew we’d put it there. We just knew that we’d find what we were looking for when we started searching because that’s where we knew to look and yet we come up empty handed. Did you lose the truth about Jesus and what he means to your religion? Did you forget where you put the part about how Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost? Did you misplace your identity in Christ as your Savior? Perhaps you’re still searching. Or it could be that you’ve never started looking because you’re unaware of the fact that Jesus is yet to be found.
But belief in Jesus as WHO HE IS will be the starting point at which you will be able to differentiate Christianity from other religions. Without that, you should brush up on your tradition, because you’ve got some praying and fasting to do-or else. You’ve got some poor to feed. Start planning that trip to Mecca. And remember, a little leaven leavens the whole lump. A whole lifetime cannot contain the mystery of Jesus, yet his Spirit bears witness to us that he is real. And what we find is the miracle of the lost coin. We are found in our search to find him. Jesus is becoming real to me.
May he become more real to you in each moment of your searching.