A young friend texted me last night. I hadn’t heard from him for months, and I got the feeling he’d been wandering from God.
After a few awkward stabs at conversation, our talk quickly moved toward faith and my concerns about his relationship with God. On the phone, he argued:
“I still believe in Jesus, just not in the way you do.”
Turns out the “Jesus” he believes in is not the historical, 2000-years ago prophet walking the Middle East, who’s followers faithfully recorded His teachings.
No, this is not the one guy researched archeologically and theologically more than any other figure of history.
Nor is it the Jesus of whom the New Testament is the only verifiable document of His teachings.
No, not that one. You know? The other one.
You see, my friend’s never liked it when Christians say Jesus is the only way to God. And by his lifestyle, I also think he doesn’t like some of the things the Biblical “Jesus” says shouldn’t do.
So to remedy this conundrum, my friend did a very practical thing. He simply created another “Jesus”. He’s not unique in this – I know many people who’ve made their own “Designer Jesus”
My friend’s “Jesus” never bums people out about their life choices, never makes demands of people, and never is so arrogant as to claim to be the only way to God.
But the problem for my friend is that, unlike the prophet from Nazareth, there’s no proof his “Jesus” ever existed. At least, nowhere outside his own mind.
In fact, the one singular collection we have of His teachings states Jesus claimed to be the one and only way to God (John 14:6). He made this claim not just once by often. It’s evident He said this because that exclusive claim is the very reason the Pharisees wanted Him killed. They saw it as blasphemy for a mere human to claim to be the only avenue to the Father.
There simply is no other viable Jesus to choose from except that historical one. Once you stray from the New Testament documents, you have wandered into fantasyland.
Worse than that, you’re misrepresenting the one Jesus we actually know existed and insulting the millions of people who follow Him.
What my friend has done is create another Jesus: sort of a “Designer Jesus”. He looks kind of like Jesus, but is stripped of all the things that make Him special. This Jesus’ death didn’t have any special power, because in my friend’s world people don’t really need saving. His Jesus is cool with however they want to live.
So the cross was actually a “really bad Friday”, not a “Good Friday”. Jesus’ death was not the super hero, world-saving event Christians celebrate, but instead a cruel end to an exceptional life.
I probably didn’t handle the exchange with my friend very well. That’s because I know the real Jesus, the only Jesus we can logically believe existed. And to hear Him redefined was like someone telling me my mother was really a red head, when I’d grown up knowing she was a blonde.
It’s as if he said, “I know your mom, and she looks nothing like you remember”. Seriously, that’s insulting.
Sorry, but Jesus is not a Mr Potato Head. You don’t get to remove his “angry eyes” and make Him OK with your compromised values. You don’t get to create Him in your own image, but the other way around. As Willy Wonka said, “Strike that. Reverse it!”
You’re supposed to be letting Jesus remake you in HIS image. Quite a contrast.
Jesus was, if nothing else, a historical person. If you’re an atheist and say you believe that’s all He was, I can respect your decision.
But re-imagining Jesus is a dangerous thing.
If you’re a racist, you don’t get to take a Middle Eastern Jew and pretend He was a blue-eyed Aryan. His race and culture is not up for a make-over.
You also don’t get to update His worldview to fit your contemporary, trendy values. He’s not a Barbie you can change into My Malibu Barbie, or Teenage Fashion Model Barbie.
So I’m afraid there’s no Gay Pride Jesus, just like there’s no Duck Dynasty Jesus. No Climate Change Jesus, and no Polyester Protestant Jesus (complete with a short haircut and short-sleeved white dress shirt and neck tie).
Jesus is who He was and He believed what He said. Take Him or leave Him, but don’t dress Him up like a doll for your tea party!
But this is the problem all of us face. We want to make Jesus OK with our lives and with our sins. It’s only “their sins” He has a problem with, right? Instead of going to the Scripture and letting His words paint a true picture of Him, we go to our own prejudices and proclivities and create our own Bizarro Jesus.
Too many of us are reimagining Him for the 21st century. But we forgot that, unlike Superman, He’s not a fictional character. And to try to recreate Him betrays a level of arrogance that will turn this sweet old pastor’s face bright red.
Divine or not, He’s historical fact. So if you don’t like Him, be honest and walk away from Him. Reject His teachings and say He’s not God. Fine. But don’t bastardize 2000 years of history, archaeology and theology just to rationalize your own lifestyle.
That Jesus you create may make you feel better about yourself. But any Jesus pieced together with parts from other people’s minds is worse than a myth. He’s a monster.
When we try to create “another Christ”, what we really end up with is truly an “anti-Christ”. And if I remember my book of Revelation correctly, taking sides with that “christ” never ends well.