I work with a lot of really smart, progressive, modern people. I know that many of them are Christians, but we don’t usually talk about it.
Faith is private. Faith is personal. Let’s talk about something a little bit less controversial – like politics or sex.
Maybe it’s not such a big deal. I mean, as long as we’re all doing good work in the world, as long as we’re showing love to one another, why do we even need to mention Jesus? Is it really our faith in Jesus that makes the difference, or would the truth be just as beautiful if we named it Allah or Buddha or Light?
Do I really believe that God, the creator of the universe, took on human flesh and became one of us? Am I convinced that God came into the world as a baby, lived with us as a brother, and died for us on the cross outside Jerusalem?
And if I do, what then? What’s the practical impact on my life? What makes the story of Jesus so compelling that I’m willing to believe in things that seem ridiculous to the human mind? Jesus was raised from the dead and lives among us to this very day? Who believes that?
Well, as a matter of fact, I do. I have experienced his presence and resurrection body in my own life. I have seen him. God has raised him from the dead, and he is alive with me.
It’s a little nuts, I know. I have no idea how to justify my faith, my relationship with Christ, in terms that this world can understand, or that my mind can grasp.
Why does it make a difference that I follow Jesus – specifically Jesus, and not just any old universal God concept?
For me, it’s all about who God really is.
I understand why faith in a nonspecific, nameless, supposedly universal God/Spirit/Light is increasingly popular in mainstream American culture. A God without definition can, by definition, never offend anyone. It’s a God who is whoever or whatever we say it is. This God can be personal or nontheistic. It can justify war or bolster peace. This nonspecific God can be molded to fit whatever image we happen to want or need at the moment.
With Jesus, there’s a specific person involved. There is content to Jesus’ message that none of us can run from in good conscience. If we pay attention to the words that Jesus speaks, the actions that he undertakes, the life that he lives, we can’t stay the same. Rather than making a god in our own image, we are invited to be remade in the image of Jesus.
As crazy as it seems, I do believe in the resurrected carpenter from Nazareth. He has a personality that I can’t reduce to any bland universal theory about truth, love, or justice. It is in him that I see the face of God. When I look at Jesus, follow Jesus, become a friend of Jesus, I discover who God really is.
What’s your experience? Has Jesus – specifically Jesus – shown up in your life? What difference has that made for you?
Do you feel like you’re able to speak about Jesus with those around you? How do you get past the weirdness of following a man who was raised from the dead 2,000 years ago? What is it about Jesus that makes us willing to embarrass ourselves rather than accepting a bland, nondescript, unnamed God concept?