We're okay with the Jesus of the Bible.
But because we also like things the way they are, we often don't believe in the Jesus of today. We don't want our world shaken up. We don't want a Jesus who breaks our religious rules. We don't want a Jesus who overturns tables in our temple. We don't want a Jesus who embraces marginalized people in our culture. That just won't do.
So we believe in the Jesus of yesterday. He did all those wonderful things in his culture, and as these issues are all fixed now in our world, there's not much more to do except send out missionaries, get people to say the sinner's prayer, and have potlucks.
We're okay with the biblical Jesus as we have created him, but not with the real Jesus....
The biblical Jesus talked to women. That was shocking back then, but for us, men and women have been talking for quite a while. No big deal.
The biblical Jesus treated gentiles with respect. Outrageous to the chosen ones! No problem for us, though, considering most of us are gentiles. And if one thinks of the Samaritans as being a religious split from Judaism, we're pretty used to other denominations and in many cases considering them roughly equivalent.
The biblical Jesus touched lepers! Unclean! Avoid them was the standard response in his day. To us, leprosy is a non-issue: the disease is worlds away and lepers are surely being treated by missionary doctors using the latest and greatest medicines. No worries.
The biblical Jesus hung out with tax collectors. That`s bad, as tax collectors cheated their own people. We might not like taxes, but generally, we`re the ones trying to cheat the tax man. Nothing too earth-shaking there.
In a recent interview, Richard Beck said:
Sometimes I describe Unclean as a book about the psychology of missional failure, about why the church often fails to follow Jesus into the world where he’s found among tax-collectors, sinners and prostitutes. Basically, few Christians are confused about what Jesus is doing in the gospels. We see exactly what Jesus does in embracing the “unclean.” And yet, the church struggles to follow Jesus’ example. Why is that?
Substitute contemporary situations into the Biblical stories, and we object. We are horrified. We say Jesus would never do that, or go there, or hang out with them.
How many of us would like Jesus if he walked on the earth today instead of two thousand years ago?