As a young man, regardless of any and all good intentions, those who tried to interest me in the Person of Jesus sounded something like this: “Hey, I want you to meet this friend of mine. Pretty much all he likes to do is harshly scold you for everything you are doing wrong, take away all of your freedom and fun and immerse you in a lifestyle that is breathtakingly dull and entirely lacking in any sort of pleasure or intellectual honesty. When can I introduce you two?”
For reasons and purposes known only to God Himself, what I did not hear until I was well along into my 40s was anything remotely like this: “Hey, I want you to meet this friend of mine. He’s the single-most-loving individual I’ve ever met. He is also wealthy and generous beyond your ability to imagine; this guy actually delights in sharing his riches with everyone he meets…even with people who clearly despise him! Unlike every other so-called guru I’ve ever encountered, his wisdom and ability are bottomless, too. Can I introduce you?”
Unsurprisingly, young men have zero interest in meeting the caricature of Jesus so prevalent in much of the Christian culture I encountered growing up.
Even less appealing was the rigid, judgmental demeanor of many of those who claimed to know Jesus personally. In other words, what I most clearly recall as a young man being coaxed into church was that my ability to be a friend of Jesus was somehow tied to the way I was behaving and, as it turned out, I was behaving rather badly. Clearly, whatever “club” I was being invited to join had made a serious mistake in approaching me at all. My lack of interest ought to have been obvious; I only ever went to church to meet girls and horse around.
If this sounds at all familiar, that’s because this sort of botched intro to Jesus happens all the time.
Many well-meaning Christians spend far too much time obsessing over the outward behavior of themselves and (far more often) that of others. Christians have muddled the idea of grace and replaced it with judgment. There is little in the way of excitement over what is, in fact, a lifestyle of blessing and joy. Consider further the words of Rico Tice, Anglican churchman and co-author of Christianity Explored:
Although my experience of the universe was that it really was extraordinary, Christianity definitely was not.
First of all, it was incredibly dull. I used to go to church about once a month and, when I did, I just sat there, counting the number of bricks up the wall.
Secondly, I couldn’t see what it had to do with me. I couldn’t relate to the religious people I met, and I couldn’t see the point of reading a book written 2,000 years ago and 2,000 miles away. I thought it was a bunch of rules telling me how to live my life and, actually, my life was pretty good. So I didn’t need any of them.
And then thirdly, and most importantly, I just thought it wasn’t true.
For both myself and Rico Tice, what became clear later in life is that we were actually rejecting an inaccurate caricature of Who Jesus is, not the historical God-Man Himself. In hindsight, perhaps I ought to have paid more attention to the fact that Jesus hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors and other despised individuals living on the margins of first-century Roman culture…and that He reserved His harshest condemnations for the religious people who wanted everyone else to think they had their act together.
Surely had I seen even this little evidence of Who Christ really is, I might have been more interested. While many people did in fact make an effort to introduce me to Christ, I couldn’t hear what they were saying as their disapproval of my then-current lifestyle drowned them out.
If you enjoy eating Shakespeare’s Pizza, would like to grab a meal and ask some honest questions in judgment-free setting – and have your ability to think and decide for yourself respected – The Crossing will begin hosting Christianity Explored on Feb. 1st. All are welcome. Grab a beer (assuming you are so inclined), help yourself to some food and settle in for a time of thoughtful reflection. For those who have already accepted Jesus, please consider “investing” in a friend by offering to attend with him or her. You don’t have to have all the answers (we sure don’t) but driving a buddy to dinner seven weeks in a row can be used powerfully, too.
Hope to see you there!
For anyone trying to get their head around who Jesus really is
and what it might mean to follow him.
Begins Feb. 1, 2017, through March 15th.
No cost to attend, but please register.
No childcare, but pizza and salad are provided.
Shakespeare’s Pizza South
3911 Peachtree Drive
Columbia, Missouri 65203