There’s a particular view of Jesus I’ve noticed which is prevalent among non-Christians, but is held by nominal or liberal Christians as well.
In this view, Jesus is a sort of all-loving, all-accepting, nice guy who came to earth to be everyone’s buddy. He doesn’t challenge anyone’s sin, except for the uptight religious guys whom nobody likes anyway. He won’t tell you anything except that God loves and accepts you, whoever you are.
This Jesus didn’t come to judge anyone. Any of his followers who calls anything sin (at least sins that are culturally acceptable) is disobeying his only and most important command: Do Not Judge.
They say that they admire Jesus (even though they probably haven’t read much, if any, of the Bible), but they don’t like his followers, because they are so unlike Jesus. They probably don’t go to church, but might call themselves “spiritual but not religious”.
If they do call themselves Christian, they face a major problem. Large swaths of the Bible, mainly the Old Testament, don’t square with their idea of Jesus. They don’t want to throw away buddy Jesus, because he’s so nice. So in order to reconcile this dilemma, they discard the Old Testament and much of the New, saying it is not really a revelation of God but merely “human misunderstanding”. Funnily enough, the words of God end up being the ones that we like, agree with, and fit our cultural preconceptions.
There’s no real gospel message, no sin, no repentance, and no hell. The main commandment is to be nice and try to make the world a better place. Many Christians who hold this view work for social justice causes, but nothing that includes seeking people’s salvation.
The appeal of this view is obvious. Who wouldn’t want to believe in a God who is nothing but love, who accepts and affirms us just as we are, who never challenges us or demands anything of us, who forgives and tolerates whatever we do? We can live as we please, as long as we are basically nice to everyone and don’t disobey the cardinal command of Do Not Judge. We never have to face ridicule, ostracization, or persecution, because our views are the same as the culture’s. We never have to stand against anything, or deny ourselves by saying no to sin.
We don’t have to worry about hell or judgement. In the end, we’ll all be OK, no matter what we believe or do (unless, of course, we’re one of those hypocritical, judgemental Christians).
The problem with this view, as popular as it is, is that it doesn’t describe the Jesus of the Bible. If we’re going to admire Jesus and take him as an example, we need to be sure we’re understanding him accurately. We can’t simply pick out a few passages that we like (love others, don’t judge) and ignore the ones we don’t. We must do Jesus the justice of understanding him as he represented himself.
If you believe, as I do, that correct understanding and response to Jesus matters eternally, nothing is more important. It’s far too crucial to get wrong or just not care about.
I wanted to make this one blog post, but it was going to be much too long. So I’m going to split it into a few different posts. Stay tuned.