As I read through my post on Jesus from 2011 (blast 3), I remember what it was that held me ‘faithful’ to faith – and Christianity in particular. If belief was about some kind of intellectual assent to the concept of a ‘God’, then I’m not sure I’d still be here. The congnitive dissonance of faith is hard to manage without something ‘real’ to hold on to.
I talk in the the post about how utterly captivating I find this first century God-man, a ‘paradox wrapped within an enigma’ – at once a radical revolutionary and yet promising nothing more than fulfilment of what already existed.
If anything I’ve become even more intrigued as I’ve learnt more about Jesus as a Jewish prophet, continuing the long line of those calling us to covenental faithfulness. As I discovered Rabbi Jesus, I realised that his work exists not in some timeless vacuum, but is firmly rooted in his time and his place. The remarkable thing is that his message resonated beyond these temporal limitations – as do the words of all the greats.
For many reasons Christianity has done a horrific job of stripping away this essential nature of Jesus. We wanted a messiah who was completely ours, not one who came with the intent of renewing what existed. Let’s be honest – he failed in the task of being recognised by his people as what he was, so it’s almost inevitable that we might want to underplay that. Instead we make it all about his death and resurrection at the expense of ignoring his teaching and actions.
There’s so much more I wish I knew – like what his eyes looked like as he taught: were they twinkling with mischief, burning with passion or steely determined? Did he mean every word of “sell everything…”, was he intentionally guilty of hyperbole? Did he know what was going to happen? Are the words we read inserted into his mouth by the early theologians?
I’ve come to understand so much more about atonement – realising that just because the penal substitutionary model that dominates evangelical theology and practice sucks, that doesn’t mean there’s not better ideas out there worth learning about. I’m drawn in particular to the Christus Victor and moral exemplar models, but now see all of these attempts to explain Jesus as having something useful to teach us.
In the end, this is what brings me back to Christianity. In a way, I reject that word. I understand the ‘whys’ of the religion that grew up around the story of Jesus, as we tried to protect orthodoxy – but as we inevitably slid towards control and an in/out model I think we lost completely what Jesus was doing.
I’d much rather be known as a Jesus follower – some dedicating their life to trying to make sense of what it means to take seriously the gospel message of radical inclusion and disruption.
I want to be known as one who loves first and judges last. I want to be known for hanging out with the wrong crowd because I see something of God’s image and beauty in everyone. I want to be known for being willing to put it all on the line for the least because I know that Jesus did this for me. I want to be known as salt and light, somehow changing the small things I turn my hand to. I want to be love in word, thought and deed.
Another old chorus from my Salvation Amry upbringing nails it for me – To be like Jesus! This hope possesses me, In every thought and deed, This is my aim, my creed; To be like Jesus!