Rejecting Jesus for All the Wrong Reasons

canstockphoto12271796I’m tired of people rejecting Jesus for all the wrong reasons.

Whatever else you may say about the Romans and the temple leaders in 1st century Israel, at least they rejected Jesus for the right reasons. Pilate and Caiaphas may have been power-hungry, exploitative, greedy, fearful, violent and manipulative, but they understood the actual threat that Jesus posed when they had him eliminated.

I seriously doubt that Caiaphas really cared that much that Jesus made claims for himself that only Yahweh could rightly make. It’s probably not that unusual for those with certain mental illnesses or those on hallucinogenic drugs to make outlandish claims like being God or the devil or Elvis, and nobody has them tried and executed as a threat to church and state.

There were in fact times during his ministry when Jesus was accused of being crazy and/or demon-possessed (Mark 3:21-22), or a drunkard (Matthew 11:19), but no one tried to kill him. In Matthew 9 Jesus is accused of blasphemy when he told a paralyzed man that his sins were forgiven—a prerogative belonging only to God. Still, the temple leadership didn’t try to have him stoned.

No, it was when Jesus came to their city and their temple and challenged their authority that his “blasphemy” became a problem. He could say whatever he wanted in Galilee or Samaria, but not in Jerusalem. The real blasphemy that Jesus committed in their eyes was not usurping God’s place, but theirs.

And they were right. Jesus was a dangerous man, a real threat to the authority of temple and empire. As wrong as they were for rejecting and crucifying him, at least they did it for the right reasons.

If people today rejected Jesus because they see him as a threat to church and state, I could respect that.

If they rejected Jesus because he threatens their pursuit of wealth, that’s a good reason, because Jesus really is a threat to the accumulation of great wealth. He had nothing good to say about it, and much to say against it. He threw the gauntlet down—serve God, or serve wealth. You can’t do both, he said, so choose one and hate the other.

If people today rejected Jesus because he didn’t respect their national, ethnic, and gender borders, that at least shows a proper understanding of who Jesus is and what his kingdom entails; that what to us is a border is to Jesus just an ocean beach, a river, or an imaginary line.

And if people today rejected Jesus because they think it’s absolutely crazy to expect good people to confront evil without a missile, rifle, or even a sword, armed instead with nothing but a cross on which to die, well that’s a perfectly good reason to reject Jesus. It does sound crazy!

But these things don’t seem to be why people reject Jesus. There’s only two ways that they would know these things—and many more—about Jesus: by reading the Bible, or by watching and listening to Christians.

I doubt that there are more than just a handful of people who aren’t Christians who have actually read the Bible and know what it says about Jesus. I don’t know that for sure, it’s just an assumption, but I think it’s a pretty good assumption. I sometimes wonder how many Christians spend much time reading the Bible, so I wouldn’t expect many non-Christians to do it.

What most non-religious people therefore know about Jesus is what they see and hear from Christians, and I’m not sure what that Jesus is a threat to except perhaps their own personal morality. And he’s not really a threat to that, because we can “accept him as Lord and Savior” and be forgiven for all our moral failings, so it’s all good.

The Jesus they see and hear about is all about forgiving sins and helping us to live happy and meaningful lives. What’s threatening about that? Bring it on!

The Jesus most Christians have accepted is not a threat their wealth, particularly if they give 10% to the church; he’s not a threat to their belief in overwhelming force and violence in dealing with national enemies; he’s not a threat to their belief that the poor are lazy, immoral, lawless and therefore deserving of their plight and our scorn; and he’s not a threat to the power structures that continually exploit the powerless to enrich themselves.

But the Jesus of Scripture is a threat to all of those things. If Christians recognize that (and many don’t) they don’t let it get in the way of anything. As Pastor Eugene Cho confesses, “I’m more in love with the idea of following Jesus than actually following Jesus.”

Can you join me in confessing, “Me too”?

Sadly, there are always going to be people who reject Jesus, but let’s live in such a way that when they do, at least they aren’t rejecting him for all the wrong reasons.

Image by © Can Stock Photo Inc. / nicku

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