Whose Jesus?

An essay by a Christian writer recently caught AnOldSinner’s attention. The writer was chastising mainstream evangelical churches for failing to understand the needs of the younger generations.  The writer opined church leaders were missing the boat because they thought all they needed to attract and keep young believers was a better contemporary worship team or upscale coffee shop.

AnOldSinner found much of the essayist’s piece eerily familiar.  In fact, the essay is further proof of Ecclesiastes 1:9, “That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.” ( NAS) In truth, this writer could have written much of the essayist’s piece thirty years ago.

She complained that she and other young people were leaning toward “high church traditions.” These traditions seemed straightforward and pure to the essayist and the people for whom she claimed to speak.  The essayist went on to castigate evangelical leaders for being too legalistic and closed minded.

The essayist stated the younger seekers and believers felt churches were being hypocritical.  It was clear from her essay that the hypocrisy of which she spoke centered on churches preaching against some behaviors or sins while turning a blind eye to others.

AnOldSinner could easily identify with the essayist’s criticisms.  At one time this writer walked that same path, looking for something more than the fire and brimstone, pulpit-pounding condemnation of almost everything.  In some churches, it seemed everything was wrong, for the masses, but it was okay to wink at the indiscretions of certain members of the community.  The idea of traditions that had been in place for hundreds of years was appealing.

AnOldSinner dealt, at least tangentially, with some of these issues in Flawed Messengers and Seeking an Excuse.  Hypocrisy in a church is to be expected.  Churches are filled with people, and people, even church leaders are flawed.  They can be hypocritical.  Legalism creeps in, but sometimes it is in the eye of the beholder.  Sometimes, one sees legalism because he or she does not want to agree with God’s Word.

The essayist complained, chastised and critiqued evangelical churches for 600 words before reaching her conclusion.  Those 600 words, however, were simply laying the groundwork for her primary complaint.  In the next 100 hundred words, she leveled her charge.  She stated young people were leaving the church because they did not find Jesus there.

She believes church leaders think they can just make their churches more contemporary and reel in new believers.  They think hipper music, weekly dramas, coffee shops and other contemporary touches will keep their younger members happy and attract new ones.  The essayist thinks they are wrong.  She believes that the younger generations just want and need Jesus.  While some might easily agree with her point, there is one thing the essayist did not make clear.  Whose Jesus are they seeking?

One may scoff at the last comment.  What do you mean, whose Jesus?  There is only one Jesus.  One may scoff and question, but is there really only one Jesus, at least in the minds of those who claim to seek him?

It seems every major church leader, evangelical or otherwise, preaches about a different Jesus to some degree. Some speak of Jesus as the loving shepherd who treats each member of His flock as a precious lamb that cannot protect itself.  That Jesus must stand between the lamb and any pain, suffering or judgement that might be directed its way.

Others teach of the Jesus who stands with open arms, welcoming all comers with love and peace, regardless of their transgressions and lack of repentance.  Yet others,  see Jesus as a grantor of wishes.  A powerful force that will fulfill a sinner’s every dream simply because the sinner has believed.  Still others see Jesus as a peacemaker who will sooth the pain and anguish of this world and bring all together in the shelter of His arms and the warmth of His heart.

The point many seem to miss is that Jesus is a part of God.  He must be all of the things mentioned above, and He must be other things.  Jesus did welcome all with open arms, if they were willing to accept Him and God’s law.  Jesus raised the dead, healed the lame and saved souls throughout His earthly ministry and has continued to do so from His heavenly ministry.  However, He never promised a life on this earth without pain.  He never promised a life on this earth without consequences.  He never promised that mankind could continue to sin and not face judgment.

Jesus saved the adulterous woman when the Pharisees hoped to trick Him into condemning her.  He was the shepherd protecting a member of his flock.  Yet, He did not simply save her from death.  He told her to go, and “From now on sin no more.”  (John 8:11, NAS) Jesus saved her, but there was a price of sorts to pay.  She could no longer lead the life she led before, one she may have enjoyed.  One that many in this world want to enjoy, and still be accepted in a church.  Would that Jesus be acceptable to the young seeker?  The Jesus that protects but commands obedience?

What about the Jesus sought out by the rich young ruler?   The young ruler came to Jesus and asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.  The young man kept all the commandments, but wondered what else he must do. Jesus looked upon him with love, and told him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  (Mark 10:21, NAS) The young man could not accept what Jesus said, and walked away dejected and lost.  Would that Jesus be acceptable to a young seeker today?  A Jesus that says you must follow Him at any cost to find salvation?

What about the Jesus who said, “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; … one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father  . . . ” (Luke 12:51-53,NAS) Is this the Jesus the young seekers hope to find?  Would this Jesus be acceptable to them?

The essayist wistfully envisioned a church where Jesus ruled and all would feel welcome.  She mentioned several current issues of controversy. She stated the young people wanted churches that were open.  Churches where these controversies would be put aside so their friends would be comfortable.

AnOldSinner understands that hope.  Yet, the question remains, whose Jesus?  The Jesus of the Holy Bible made very few people comfortable.  He made some feel threatened.  He made many feel unworthy.  He led others to change completely and go off into the world to be martyrs for His Kingdom.  Is that the Jesus young seekers hope to find?  AnOldSinner thinks not.

The essayist wrote because she felt evangelical leaders did not understand what her constituency wants from the church.  She may be right, and in one or two cases her words have the ring of truth, at least to this writer. However, her message fell apart with modern social issues, and this writer was reminded of the rich young ruler.

The young people she wrote about seem to want their wealth and their salvation.  However, in this case, the wealth they covet is not necessarily gold, silver or possessions.  It is the wealth of comfort, the wealth of fitting in with society.  The wealth of not having to defend or accept the parts of the Bible with which they are uncomfortable.  The wealth of not having to choose between the Word of God and whatever is trending today.

The essayist seems to claim young people, and others, are looking for that Jesus.  The One who will accept their priorities instead of His.  The One who will let them ignore the conflicts between Scripture and the beliefs of the secular world.  The one who will not tell their friends to go and sin no more.

AnOldSinner prays the essayist is wrong.

© sinnerswalk.com 2013

About S. Eric Jackson

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