More Than Jesus

“If it’s about something less than him, we can fragment on anything.”

Last night I was listening to a podcast we listen to regularly, and this week’s episode just resonated with me more than I can say. The show covers all sorts of things… it’s just a weekly conversation between two guys trying to live life with God outside of any boxes we can create. This week, I believe the topic was picked from when one of the guys made a trip back to his Christian college alma mater. Many of the people there were living life with Jesus completely differently from how he currently is, or would ever want to – and still there was unity. There was commonness. There was togetherness.

The guys got talking about how if we just share Jesus, we can live together in harmony. When we make it about anything less (they meant that obviously anything in the universe is “less” than Jesus, so if we make our bond, or our unity about anything other than Jesus) then we will inevitably fragment. We’ll argue about music style, or carpet color, or what we call ourselves, or any number of silly things. We’ll even argue about what we call “truth”. But truth is a Person. Not a list of doctrines. So even THAT can get in the way of our unity – of us being a family.

I could not agree more.

Probably more than 10 years ago now, I had just begun working for a tiny “church” here in upstate NY and, being the idealist that I (still) am, I would engage the current “senior pastor” and my fellow fledgling “minister” in long discussions about the nature of what we were trying to accomplish as the Church of Christ at Victor. And when I would boil it all down, I came to the conclusion that nothing that we currently did together – none of the very helpful programs, or even the weekly worship services – were essential to us being the Church. We simple are the Church. Nothing really can change that, unless we choose to leave the Church.

And I don’t mean to put our behinds somewhere else on a Sunday morning.

God’s plan from before creation was to adopt us into his family, as his children. That is what he offers to us. Anyone who accepts his offer is now part of his family – which is The Church. His Body, of which he is the head. His body is not just some small group of people meeting across the street from another small group of people calling themselves his body also… it’s the whole of both of those groups, plus the other three groups meeting just up the street. We in America (not always, but quite often) base our “fellowship” or our connection with believers on the extra name we bear. Not that of an adopted member of God’s family… but that of our local congregation. In many ways, being a member of “First Church of the Resurrection” is more important to us than being a son or daughter of God!

Or at least, that’s the way it would appear.

One of the podcast guys told a great story about one of his instructors (I believe that’s who it was) at his college, who has since been a life-long friend. He had a falling out with the school when he left, and the bitterness continued in him for a time after that. His friend was taking communion one day and as he was holding the bread, looking at it, he saw through the bread – like a door – and on the other side was Jesus, standing there with his arm around one of the people from the school who had hurt him the most. His reaction was, “No, Jesus! You can’t do that! He’s the one who hurt me!” And Jesus’ response was, “I’m not going to stop being this guy’s friend to be your friend.”

How cool is that? Jesus does not take sides (he shows no favorites). He loves us all the same, even when we don’t or can’t. It doesn’t matter how we “do church” or where we “go to church” or anything EXTRA. All that matters is that we are his brothers, that we are all adopted sons and daughters of the same Father.

We don’t have to pretend… we just are. I know, brothers don’t always get along. Just yesterday, Alex came out from the other room to where I was and told me that Ian wasn’t his brother anymore. After stifling a little laugh, I asked, “Well what do you mean?” He told me the “horrible” thing Ian did, and said, “So he’s not my brother anymore.” I smiled at him, and hugged him and said, “You know, that’s never going to change. No matter what either of you do, you’ll always be brothers. That’s just the way it is. So what you have to do now is go back in there and figure out a way to work together.” (I wish the story had a better ending, but I think what he did was go in and demand a little louder what it was he wanted from his brother. ๐Ÿ™‚ We’re still working on that….)

But isn’t that the point? We are brothers, and sisters in Christ. We are his family. Not multiple families bearing different names who are distant cousins. We are his family. Brother and sister. When we put anything else in the way of our common bond – Jesus – then we begin living like we are not. Even though that will never change. We will always be brothers.

I thought it was an excellent podcast, and I intend to ask some folks close to me to check it out. How I long for the unity Jesus spoke of in the book of John. We are meant to be united, but too often we make life as a believer to be “more than Jesus”… and it just gets is in a big mess.

It really is true… the more we focus on him, the more he holds all things together (that’s the name of the show…) So, today and this coming week… that’s what I will try to do. I want to focus on him in my relationship with other people, and we’ll see what happens. ๐Ÿ™‚

Sneaky Jesus?

In today’s Gospel reading… we see a bit more nefarious side of our hero, Jesus. Could it be that he was trying to mislead his own kin? Could it be that he was twisting the truth… or not telling the whole truth? Could Jesus be that sneaky???

The boys and I are going through the book of John, and yesterday the story was about his brothers sort of mocking him, saying, if you’re so cool… then go down to the big festival in Jerusalem and show everyone! We finished that story up with this line:

Jesus answered, “My time hasn’t yet come, but your time is always here. … Go on to the festival. My time hasn’t yet come, and I am not going.” Jesus said this and stayed on in Galilee.

OK, that’s cool. Nothing to that part of the story. His bros wanted him to go show off, and Jesus told them it wasn’t time yet. Got it. BUT THEN… look what we read today!!!

After Jesus’ brothers had gone to the festival, he went secretly, without telling anyone.

During the festival the Jewish leaders looked for Jesus and asked, “Where is he?” The crowds even got into an argument about him. Some were saying, “Jesus is a good man,” while others were saying, “He is lying to everyone.” But the people were afraid of their leaders, and none of them talked in public about him.

When the festival was about half over, Jesus went into the temple and started teaching.

This is crazy! Did Jesus intentionally mislead his brothers, when his full intention was to go to the festival? Did he need to because he had different ideas for how to spend his time than they did? OR… did he actually change his mind?!?! HAHA. That would be awesome.

I can picture it now. The house is quiet. Everyone is gone, down to Jerusalem for the festival. Jesus is just hanging out, enjoying the solitude. He does a few projects in the wood shop. Catches up on some reading he’d been neglecting with all the healings and public teaching and stuff. But, after awhile… he gets a little ansty. He keeps thinking of the fun he could be having with everyone else at the Festival. He talks with his Father about it… and eventually, decides he can probably sneak down there, without anyone noticing.

But, about half way through the festival, he can’t contain himself anymore, and he goes and starts teaching. What he said he was not going to do! He couldn’t help himself, I guess???

The funny thing is, when he has a public altercation with the religious folk, they try to kill him, but can not because “it was not his time”. So… what was he scared of in the first place?

I really have no point to make, just thought it was a fascinating story to share. If you would like to read it, it’s John 7:1-30 (… there’s more, but that’s what we read). What do you think? Was Jesus being “sneaky”, or did he just change his mind? Pretty funny either way… ๐Ÿ™‚

Making God In Our Own Image

On a few occasions lately, I have come across a story, or a verse from the Bible that doesn’t seem to match what I know of who God is. From my understanding of him from the whole of the Bible, and from living life with him every day, interacting with him, getting to know him… it doesn’t seem to fit. And yet it’s right there in print… in the most well-documented book ever. So I am then faced with a decision. Do I believe what “I know” about God, or what I am seeing from him right now? That’s not an easy question to answer.

I actually believe it might be a bit of both things. Certainly I can not know everything about God, just as I can’t know everything about any other person… even moreso can I not know the fullness of who God is. However, I can also trust what I do know of him as a way to interpret/understand what I am reading that seems to “contradict” that. From there, I figure I need his help to understand the stuff I don’t understand.

Some examples. Recently I was having an IM conversation with a friend and talking about how I don’t see Jesus living out life as though there are two worlds: the Sacred vs the Secular. It seems to me from all the events I see in Jesus’ life that those two worlds that I think we created were quite intermingled in Jesus’ world. He would hang with the “sinner” as well as the ultra-religiously-pious. My friend however pointed out that Jesus would often remind his disciples to not be “like the world”, or, “like the gentiles”. Seems as though Jesus was making a separation, or a distinction there, no? Still, I can not resolve that with the way Jesus treated everyone. Though there may have been a verbal distinction, all were treated equally by Jesus.

Another comes from reading some of the stories Jesus told in the last week before he was killed. My boys and I are reading through the book of Matthew, and there’s some crazy stuff in the 25th chapter. Mostly stories about “the end times” where there appear to be people who do right, and then opposing people who “do wrong” (or, don’t do right). So… it sure sounds like in story after story that either you “do good” in life, or you’ll be “thrown into the dark where people will cry and grit their teeth in pain.” Does that sound like how Jesus lived? Will he just be different when it’s the “end of the world”?

See, what I end up saying most of the time to the boys is, “I really don’t know.” They usually laugh a little, but I hope they learn from that. I don’t want them to think we have all the answers, and that once they learn them and can pass the Jesus test, that they then know God… end of story. Life is certainly not about knowing the answers. But I do want to know him, and sometimes the things I think I know of him do not match some new stuff (or sometimes, old stuff) I am learning about him. That’s when I stop to consider the fact that some of what I know of him might just be stuff I made up about him.

Confusing, I know.

Perhaps this is too much analysis… but it is what I have been thinking. And all of this makes me want to read my Bible more, and learn from everything I see of Jesus, and even his followers, contained in those pages. I want Jesus to unfold the reality of himself – who he really is – in every part of my life. I love that we don’t have a “church life” as we used to know it, and that Jesus is truly part of our entire lives these days. I only want know him more and more… really know him… not continue to create my own ideas of who he is.

That’s the amazing part about living life with Jesus, and his Spirit in us… it’s dynamic. He’s the same, but our understanding of him can change as we learn what is him, and what we have made up. Fascinating. A little scary, but exhilirating.

How incredible that he wants that relationship with us! We are friends of God! (That’s from Romans 5…) As puzzling as he may be sometimes, I know that I can count on that being true… and so we press on to know the God we could never create.

What a trip!