WHY WE GET IT WRONG

Human beings often get it wrong because we insist that there is only one way to view things. Christians often insist that this is the only way to view the world because of Jesus’ claim “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6b) There is further emphasis given in the last part of the verse where the claim continues, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” So Jesus claims to be the only way to God. But, when we travel through most communities in the United States we find that there are many ways to Jesus. And something even more puzzling is found in the same Gospel where Pilate asks Jesus “What is the truth?” Jesus does not offer an answer.
We get it wrong because we disciples of Jesus do not pay attention to how he chose to act. Jesus was guided by his own reasons based on who he knew himself to be. An Episcopal priest I know once remarked to me that the slogan form of Christian confession usually falls into odd phrasings. An auto mechanic shop in my hometown once said on the marquee “Jesus Saves. Spring Tire Sale.” Unfortunate statements border on unintentional blasphemy.
I propose the slogan approach be abandoned. It is too easy to turn a phrase. It is not easy to turn a life around. It is better to be less glib and more authentic.
We get it wrong because the sense of authentic Christian believing and living involves knowing Jesus in a way that ties our imaginations to the text of the New Testament. We could easily imagine Jesus in ways that we prefer. We could idealize a figure of Jesus as a good shepherd minding the sheep and keeping quiet about a great many things. We may wish to see Jesus as a good neighbor who loves to be with children and cause no problems. We may visualize Jesus doing only what we believe should be done. I may dislike a group of people and prefer Jesus disliking them as well. The slogan based form of Christian confession only gives us an imagined Jesus. We do not find any true authenticity until we are ready to find out who he is.
Jesus, according to the gospels, sought faithful followers. He wanted people to hear and do what he told them. Judas Iscariot once claimed there should be no honors for Jesus without helping the poor. Jesus claimed honoring him was as necessary as honoring the poor. John’s Gospel explains that Judas was not concerned for the poor (unless he has himself in mind as poor). He merely wanted access to more money. Jesus wishes us to honor him in worship and action so that we can take a focus away from ourselves.
People often claim, “you do not have to go to church to be a christian.” I argue the opposite position that a Christian must worship with other believers in order to grow in love and faith. We get it wrong when we use the name of Jesus to justify our own desires, prejudices, and preferences. We get it right when we follow his way, his truth, and his life.
The answer to the questions “What did he say?” and “what should we do?” should be the same.

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