by Herbert Douglass | 6 April 2023 |
This essay was originally published on 29 December 2012 .
I know, this question may appear to be a joke! But it has caused me to think for more than a mere few minutes.
Most people reading these words would call themselves “Christian.” That is, Jesus Christ is their spiritual hero, not Buddha! They choose to let people know that Christ is the most important person who has ever lived on Planet Earth.
But how does that actually play out?
Remember when the Jewish power boys “saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13, NKJV). And so did many others. Hundreds, then thousands, then millions replicated the witness of Peter and John.
So what would a stranger think if he/she attended your local church? What would they learn about Jesus? Would they really care? Or, would it be Some Other Jesus that was being proclaimed? (Remember, Paul had to nail down Some Other Jesus that the Galatians had come to believe with these words: “Let him be accursed.”)
So you are looking for a pastor and someone gives you this resumé:
- Never murdered, raped, robbed, accosted, or committed a felony crime.
- Never swindled, cheated, or got a speeding or parking ticket, as far as we know.
- He broke the Sanhedrin’s law by working on the Sabbath to feed the hungry.
- He probably committed a couple of misdemeanors when he turned the tables over in the temple and withered the fig tree, and maybe even more when he drowned 2,000 pigs.
- The religious hierarchy accused him of heresy and the civil authorities accused him of treason or, at least, of being a troublemaker.
But someone on the Search Committee asks: why did so many people, from the top down, want to kill Him? “What kind of a person was He?” And so these additional observations were made:
- He never married.
- He was a partygoer, seemed never to miss a good party, often with publicans and sinners.
- He made wine.
- He befriended the outcast, helped the poor, wanted to free prisoners and turn the other cheek when confronted.
- He made only 12 personnel appointments, one of which was his undoing.
- His fellowship of believers held everything in common.
- He was a faith healer.
- He was critical of church leaders, telling them they didn’t have a chance of making a passing grade. He was also tough on the wealthy; they, too, did not grade well.
- He clearly supported separation of church and state, and fidelity to both.
- He was relevant, ministering to others where faith meets life. He tried to build a kingdom based on this model.
- Letters to the editor questioned and criticized Him daily—seemed to have church, politics, and the poor all jumbled up. His associations and lifestyle were questionable.
- He taught that His kingdom was not of this world.
- He taught that everyone was either becoming wheat or weeds and that character had eternal consequences.
- He taught that He had come to tell the Truth about our Heavenly Father.
- He said that whoever is not for Him is against Him.
- He said that marriage is between a man and a woman.
- He said that no one can serve two masters.
- He said that each person will be known by his/her “fruit.”
- He warned that many people who say they are His friends will discover that He never knew them for what they said they were.
- He said that He sent His followers into the world for the same reason that He was sent into the world—to tell the truth about God.
- For saying all this, He was not widely popular.
So, with this record, would your church call Jesus as pastor? What would happen to attendance in a month’s time? Contributions? Would He make so many members so mad so quickly with his theology, priorities, lifestyle, and involvements that the future of the church would be threatened?
Or, would the search committee write to the Conference president and ask for a different Jesus model!
Perhaps the Search Committee has only three choices:
- Work with Jesus;
- Compose a different job description;
- Crucify Him.
Of course, He would love the search committee and forgive them and the church family for any choice, knowing that they know not what they do. Come to think of it, that would be the Jesus model!
(For prompting this question, I am indebted to Gerald W. Johnson, Auburn University emeritus professor of political science.)
Herbert Douglass was a writer, editor, theologian, college professor, and administrator and regular contributor to Adventist Today. He died in 2014.