I shake my head in sadness quite often these days as I hear people promote or defend a Jesus not found in the Bible. One of the most frustrating facets of being a disciple of Jesus Christ today is seeing how so many churchgoers and pastors use Him to justify their unwillingness to address the evil without and the sin within.
Hey pew sitter and pulpiteer: try reading the Sermon on the Mount in its entirety in a single sitting for once! See if you can make it beyond the Beatitudes, “Judge not…,” and the Golden Rule. You would be quite surprised to find a guarantee of persecution for daring to live faithfully, an admonition about how tasteless salt is worthless (yeah, He’s talking about people there), a guarantee that a lack of righteousness will eternally prevent one from going to heaven, an exhortation to self-mutilate rather than engage in sexual immorality, a prohibition against materialism, a warning against people pleasing, a guarantee of being confronted by false prophets, and a prophetic word about those who are disobedient (something about a house being built on the sand).
Towering above it all, though, is something Jesus said that should make everyone who thinks they know Him pause…as the blood in their veins turns icily cold. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…” Yeah, all this is really in the Sermon on the Mount. That sermon is a whole lot more about being right with God than accepting of sin.
So when I hear my fellow Christians speak of how Jesus was all about love, hospitality, and inclusivity, I wonder how they managed to mangle the Sermon on the Mount and how they possibly reconcile the passion and crucifixion of Jesus to what they claim was His central message to humanity. I mean, if Christ was all about promoting tolerance and acceptance toward everyone…how in the world did He end up beaten and crucified?
What kind of twisted view of reality must people have who say Jesus only wanted people to actualize their human potential for love and hospitality and yet was publicly scourged, humiliated, and crucified? News flash for some of you theological liberals out there…the people who were actually there and watched Him and listened to Him had a quite different view of what His central message and theme were.
Two thousand years ago, no one was going to get angry, hostile, or offended if all a preacher had to say was “God loves you” and “turn the other cheek.” They may have rolled their eyes and ignored the speaker but they certainly would not have gotten so rabidly angry that they would have beaten him half to death and then crucified him.
It boggles the mind that people actually believe Jesus was accepting of all and simply proclaimed a message of love and tolerance. And you really believe that’s what the Jewish and Roman leaders tormented and killed Him for? Good grief.
I have no interest in painting a picture of an angry vindictive Jesus here. He certainly was (and still is) a Man of grace, truth, and love. But to suggest, as many do, that His central goal and mission was to make everyone comfortable with themselves and feel good about their future is absolutely ludicrous. Again, I simply point to His arrest, trials, and crucifixion as what is blatantly obvious. He said and did things that absolutely infuriated a lot of people and it wasn’t “God loves you” or working in the local food pantry that did it. He flat out said more people were on their way to hell than heaven (Matthew 7:13-14; all reference below are from the gospel of Matthew as well). He said those who blasphemed the Holy Spirit would pay for it eternally (12:31). He referred to some people as tasteless salt (5:13), dogs (7:6), diseased trees (7:17), fools (7:26), snakes (23:33), robbers (21:13), hypocrites (23:13 and many more), children of hell (23:15), blind fools (23:17), whitewashed tombs (23:27), and sheep and goats (25:32). None of which had anything to do with His central message and purpose, right?
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew10:34). That had nothing to do with what happened on Good Friday either, right? Or, “no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Don’t get me wrong. There is a context for all of the preceding (and so much more I left out). But even within that context it is absolutely clear that Jesus had no interest in making people feel good about themselves or accepting of sin in anyone. He proclaimed not only that God is love. He also preached a very clear message of righteousness and holiness that is required for forgiveness and eternal life.
Just to make sure people knew what Christ’s purpose in life was, John spelled it out quite clearly:
1) “You know that he appeared to take away sins…” (1 John 3:5)
2) “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
And he prefaced that second one with “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil.”
I just don’t know where you can find the Jesus so many people are describing today. The Jesus who was all about making people feel good about themselves and comfortable in their sins is not in any legitimate Bible I have read. The Jesus who was all about making friends instead of waves must certainly exist somewhere…just not in the Bible.
Jesus Christ was crucified because He made people very uncomfortable about their sins. If you feel comfortable with Jesus in your sinful lifestyle…you don’t know the right Jesus.