Rethinking Jesus

Recently I was speaking at a private school, and a high school student asked me why I am a Christian. I gave her two answers, the second of which was this: Christianity gives me a comprehensive worldview. It is the foundation for all that we do and for all that we have in our lives. It gives reason to our pursuits, and it allows us to account for justice, beauty, and for truth. 

Now, what is different about the Christian worldview is that it is all based upon a person. We see that in Chapter one of First Peter: Even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. It is all based upon Him. That makes Christianity unique. Take the worldview of existentialism. Existentialism is not based upon Him—Kierkegaard, but upon It— making that individual choice. Islam is not based upon Him—Mohammed, but upon It—following the Five Pillars of Islam. Judaism is not based upon Him—Moses, but upon It—the Torah. Buddhism is not based upon Him—Buddha, but upon It—the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-fold Path to Buddhism. Hinduism is not based upon Him—Krishna, but upon ItMoksha, or receiving release from the cycle of reincarnation. 

When you look at the Christian worldview, everything is based upon the identity, the person, the life, and the actions of Jesus. Interestingly enough, on some level everybody likes Jesus. More books and songs have been written about Jesus than any person in the history of the world. More art has been inspired by the person of Jesus than any other person in the history. The Bible is the perennial “best-seller” and has been for centuries! And whether you are watching The Simpson’s, South Park, or King of the Hill, you’ll hear many references throughout that are about Jesus Christ. See a movie, and there is Ricky Bobby praying to Baby Jesus. Just think about the two most controversial films in the last three years: The Passion of the Christ and The DaVinci Code. The subject matter in both those movies was Jesus and His identity. Brad Pitt is seen wearing a shirt that says, “Jesus is my Homeboy.” And within weeks, Madonna is crucified to a psychedelic cross. It is all about Jesus—he seems more popular than ever. 

It really would seem that people are not turned off by Jesus as much they are by his followers, unfortunately. But what about this inexpressible and glorious joy that Peter was talking about? If Jesus’s followers have this joy, which is directly tethered to Him, wouldn’t it follow that everyone would want to know the real Jesus—instead of the Depeche Mode version? Wouldn’t they be clamoring to find out the key to this joy? Perhaps the problem is that we’re not living in that inexpressible joy. So how do we get there? 

Everybody has thought about Jesus. Whether you’re a Christian, an agnostic, an atheist, Buddhist, Jewish—you’ve had to think about Jesus at some time in your life. I would challenge you to rethink Jesus. I don’t know what that looks like for you. You may be a seeker or a skeptic and today is the very beginning of that process. Read the Gospel of John. Read it with an open mind. Okay, read it with a closed mind. Just read it. If you don’t want to read the Bible, there are a lot of great books you can read. Buy Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. 

Or you might say you believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I would challenge you to rethink Jesus too. We’ve got to feel the weight—intellectually, philosophically, and practically—that God has come to earth in the person of Jesus. He has told us how to reconnect with God, how to know him, and how to live our lives and advance his kingdom in everything we do. Being a Christian is not simply saying, “Yeah, that’s a proposition I believe in.” Being a Christian is following a person—believing in who he is and then saying, “I want to follow You.” And Jesus is always calling out to us: Follow Me. 

Now, here’s the first answer I gave to that student’s question of why I’m a Christian: Need. I need God. I have messed up, and I need to be forgiven. I need grace. I need a crutch. Someone may ask: “You mean you can’t stand on your own two feet?” A crutch is only good if you know you are crippled; I’m crippled. I’m broken. I need to be restored and reconciled—brought back to the God who made me and who knows me. 

I really believe that Jesus Christ answers the longing in our hearts. It is a two-fold longing. A longing for truth—that I’m not digging for fool’s gold at the end of the rainbow. And it is a longing for grace and love and meaning.

Ben Young