Category Archives: Jesus

they like jesus

but not the church...

but not the church...

I’m disturbed.

Ask anyone on the street:  What do you think about God?  What do you think about Jesus?  What do you think about Spirituality?

Then ask them:  What do you think about Christians?  The Church?  Christianity?

I’ll bet we’d find that people – from all walks of life, religious and irreligious (with the exception of Bill Maher, perhaps) – have a positive reaction to God, immensely respect Jesus, even practice some sort of Spirituality.

But Christian changes everything.  Descriptives emerge:  bigotted, intolerant, homophobic, subculture, controlling, hate.

How in the world did we change the world to the point that the world likes Jesus (at least in their limited understanding, but like him nonetheless they do) but can’t stand His followers?  Certainly there are wrong perceptions, but the fact remains that perceptions shape people’s realities.  And as Christians, we’ve given more than enough fodder for people’s negative perceptions to become reality.

The question for us is not necessarily how to change their perceptions, but how to change how we shape those perceptions.

In other words, regardless of what narrow (and I mean this positively, not negatively) beliefs we have, how can we communicate love to our world.

More importantly, how can we communicate God’s love to God’s world.

Because as much as people may like Jesus…

…Jesus likes them more.

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uninvited dinner guest

sycamore.jpgIn her book, Picturing God, Ann Belford Ulanov writes, “we always must come up against the hard fact at the center of the Gospel: we do not get to God by our own efforts. God comes to us.” I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful for that truth. Normally, I try to get to God through a variety of tired old inventions:
…attempts to convince God to come to me, forgive me, give me one more chance
…baiting God with promises as if He were nothing more than a hungry fish
…figuring the best phrase, speech, formula to get a prayer answered favorably
…conjuring up emotions that should catch His attention

 

all with a misunderstanding of who actually comes to whom.

It is He who comes;

He who seeks.

And as both Rob Bell and Charles Conniry, Jr., write so succinctly, God is not angry. Jesus is not waiting to smite us, to catch us in our wrongs to weigh us down with shame. Instead, Jesus is searching for us like He did Zacchaeus in Luke 19.

You see, Zacchaeus was a morally deficient man: he was a legitimate-yet-thieving tax-collector.

And what does Jesus do? Does He confront Zaccheaus with his obvious sin? Does He tell him to get straight and stop depriving people of their wages? No. What does Jesus do? Does He preach a sermon about tithing? About giving money to the poor? About repenting of sin and turning to God? No?

I have a sneaking suspicion that Jesus’ mode of evangelism would be denounced by a lot of evangelical Christians as pandering, of “not speaking the truth in love“, of bypassing the “important” things like sin and confession and guilt and rebelling against God and the need for a personal savior and would-you-just-pray-this-little-prayer-so-that-you-can-go-to-heaven stuff.

Instead, Jesus invites himself over to Zacc’s house for dinner (how great would it be to invite yourself over to someone’s house for dinner and still be welcomed?). Instead of confronting Zacchaeus in his immorality, Jesus confronts the crowd in theirs – the hypocrisy of casting judgment. Jesus indicts His own followers, the adoring throngs, with a simple offer of friendship to a broken, unrepentant sinner.

And the transformation from thief to disciple is instantaneous: “I will give half my wealth to the poor” (vs.8).

What changed Zacchaeus was not the admonition to repent, not the chiding of a morally superior being – not even a call to follow Jesus. Jesus surprises everyone – and it should surprise us as well – and offers what God offers to each of us:

Salvation through friendship. Deliverance through friendship. Transformation through friendship. No strings attached, no obligations to meet. Pure and genuine friendship.

Who came to whom?

What changed Zacchaeus? Nothing but an uninvited dinner guest.