Avoiding Jesus

Nov 10, 2014 by

Print Friendly

No one can truly know Christ unless they follow him daily in life. — Hans Denck

You know those people in your life who you respect but find hard to be around? Sometimes it seems the church feels that way about Jesus. For sure, we talk about him frequently. But we don’t hang out in his world or with his words.

Kehrberg

Kehrberg

Sermons that are supposedly teaching a Gospel text will quickly veer off into a Pauline letter or jettison back into the Old Testament somewhere.

Too often an opinion or belief is attributed to Jesus but backed up by a verse in Psalms or Romans.

Of the many Bible studies generated by a hugely popular Bible teacher, only one covers a Gospel. Of 132 Bible study groups registered on this teacher’s website, only one group of women in Odessa, Fla., opted for Luke.

Why does Jesus’ bride love but discreetly avoid her groom? Perhaps the groom’s personality would be a good place to start.

Today’s Christian generally visualizes Jesus with peace and love radiating out of him. He is the person you would want to tuck you into bed at night.

If we believe the four Gospel writers, a full rendering of Jesus has to include a man who was sometimes exasperated, angry, painfully direct and offensive. In his encounter with the Syrophoenician woman he seems almost cruel.

Jesus is painfully earnest most of the time. He tells no jokes; his stories are not funny.

And he’s so intense. Ever insistent and yet maddeningly vague, he tells us over and over that we are to give everything for the kingdom of God. Everything.

What does that mean exactly? What is enough if we need to give all?

To read Jesus is to be convicted. When have I last visited someone in prison or clothed the naked? (Does dropping off bags of cast-off clothes at Goodwill count)?

Worse yet, I am reminded that I’ve convinced myself that ferrying my kids to piano lessons and serving on a church committee is “laying down my life” and “taking up my cross.” I don’t appreciate being told, “what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.”

No one enjoys being warned about our love of and dependency on money. How unfortunate that it is a favorite trope of Jesus.

And what of those family values that we hold so dear? Jesus doesn’t seem to have the same veneration for the biological bonds.

In general, Jesus trends towards the dramatic, which makes practical application problematic at times. What is hyperbole, and what should be taken literally? “No” to plucking out eyeballs but “yes” to giving your shirt and walking about half naked? “No” to selling all you have but “yes” to dying for a friend?

There are plenty of theological traditions, past and present, that truncate Jesus. He is Savior and Lord but not teacher.

I suppose on one level this is adequate. A sacrifice is needed, Jesus fulfills, and judgment is removed.

But God didn’t give the world a body to be beaten and killed. He gave his Word. Jesus’ life and teachings are every bit as vital as the blood in his veins.

Before his ultimate sacrifice, God had three years’ worth of new information to pass along. He had a kingdom to establish — right then and right now.

We can choose his kingdom if we’re willing to walk the narrow road.

It runs straight through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Sarah Kehrberg lives in Ashe­ville, N.C.


Comments Policy

Mennonite World Review invites readers’ comments on articles. To promote constructive dialogue, editors select the comments that appear, just as we do with letters to the editor in print. These decisions are final. Writers must sign their first and last names; anonymous comments are not accepted. Comments do not appear until approved and are posted during business hours. Comments may be reproduced in print, and may be edited if selected for print.

  • Chad Miller

    While I agree with the main point of the article – I think “There are plenty of theological traditions, past and present, that truncate Jesus. He is Savior and Lord but not teacher.
    I suppose on one level this is adequate. A sacrifice is needed, Jesus fulfills, and judgment is removed. But God didn’t give the world a body to be beaten and killed. He gave his Word. Jesus’ life and teachings are every bit as vital as the blood in his veins.” – is problematic

    – This shying away from the centrality of the Cross to place emphasis on living the Jesus Way – does not need to happen. I think this reflects our discomfort with the violence of the Cross – who caused the violence? Who was being paid off? What kind of God does the cross reveal?. I think Brian Zhand is very helpful in pointing us the the beauty of The cross –

    “The Bible is clear, God did not kill Jesus. Jesus was offered as a sacrifice in that the Father was willing to send his Son into our sinful system in order to expose it as utterly sinful and provide us with another way. The death of Jesus was a sacrifice in that sense. But it was not a sacrifice to appease a wrathful deity or to provide payment for a penultimate god subordinate to Justice.

    Let me suggest that when we say Jesus died for our sins, we mean something like this: We violently sinned our sins into Jesus, and Jesus revealed the heart of God by forgiving us. When Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them,” he was not asking God to act contrary to his nature. When Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them,” he was, as always, revealing the very heart of God!

    At the cross we violently sinned our sins into Jesus, and Jesus absorbed them, died because of them, carried them into death, and rose on the third day to speak the first world of the new world: “Peace be with you.”

    -When we downplay the beauty of the Cross we miss out on the most clear picture we have of God’s kingdom way of peace, love of enemy – rather the cross in the way we follow Jesus with the whole of our lives.

About Me

advertisement