Taking An Honest Look
"When 'Christians' Aren’t Like Jesus"
by Nancy Edwards
Jesus is one of a kind. No one else is like Him. "Everything in Christ astonishes me. His spirit overawes me, and his will confounds me. Between him and whoever else in the world, there is no possible term of comparison. He is truly a being by himself…I search in vain in history to find the similar to Jesus Christ, or anything which can approach the gospel. Neither history, nor humanity, nor the ages, nor nature, offer me anything with which I am able to compare it or to explain it. Here everything is extraordinary." (Napoleon)
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the light of the world. He came to offer living water to thirsty people and eternal life to those who knew they were dying. He came to seek and save the lost, to heal the sick, and to set captives free. He preferred the company of an honest sinner to the self-righteous or religious. He so confounded and agitated the religious conservatives and liberals of His day that they conspired together to get rid of Him, but many who had felt rejected by those same leaders followed, trusted, and loved Jesus.
He treated women in a way no man had before or has since. "Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man—there had never been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, who never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as ‘The women, God help us!’ or ‘The ladies, God bless them!’; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unselfconscious-conscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words of Jesus that there was anything ‘funny’ about woman’s nature. But we might easily deduce it from His contemporaries, and from His prophets before Him, and from His Church to this day." (From an essay written in 1938 by Dorothy L. Sayer entitled, Are Women Human?)
Jesus is extraordinary but many that call themselves by His name are at best very ordinary, and at worst downright evil.
"Robert Tisland, described as a mesmerizing, pulpit-pounding preacher, schooled his wife and children in unwavering subjection to his tyrannical demands. The children were beaten with regularity because, Lucy said, ‘he expected perfection from all of us.’ Even included in those beatings was twenty-five-pound, seven-year-old Mark, left blind, deaf and brain-damaged from a stroke. Dying of encephalitis, the child held a special place in Lucy’s heart. Managing his fourteen-hour-a-day schedule was solely up to her."
"On May 4, 1983, Mark died and Robert was relieved. Mark was an ‘imperfect child,’ he reasoned, and Lucy had been responsible for his illness because of some sin she had committed.
So, when she went into the bedroom to cry over the loss, he beat her and then again on the way home from the funeral…"
"In fourteen years of marriage, Lucy was pregnant nine times and the family moved nineteen times. ‘He didn’t consult anyone,’ she recalled without emotion. ‘He was my husband, and I knew I was supposed to follow his decisions. You get married and the Bible says you are to obey your husband. Right from the start he was the boss…’"
"The beatings, which began ten months after their marriage and during her first pregnancy, were always in response to Lucy’s lack of submissiveness, Robert told her. Despite the violence he bragged that there were no problems in their marriage. After all, his wife did all the cleaning and baking, polished his shoes, hung up his clothes and served him his food, which he was free to dump on the floor if it in any way displeased him. She never left the house without checking with him, didn’t drive without his permission and had only ten to twenty-five cents in her possession for a phone call. Lucy never wore slacks or make-up, except when he permitted it in order to cover a bruise. And although he was her husband, Robert was referred to by Lucy as ‘Pastor’ or ‘Sir’." (Battered Into Submission, by James and Phyllis Alsdurf)
Other scenarios may seem less extreme and yet they are so dissimilar to Jesus and so dishonoring to His name that an honest look is still enough to send us into a state of profound sadness. Parents, spouses, pastors and Sunday school teachers who use the name of Christ to control, manipulate, confuse, and neglect those whom God has placed in their trust. People who justify their own selfishness and cover their insecurities by distorting biblical principles that were meant to protect and give life, especially to the weak and vulnerable. People who empower their destructive styles of relating by using "God words" to defend their hurtful ways and deflect accountability. Such were many leaders in the days of Jesus for whom He had piercing words of rebuke.
"‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, even while for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you shall receive greater condemnation.’"
"‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!’"
"‘Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.’" (Mt. 23:14, 23, 24, 27, 28)
Even less obvious are those of us who are at best ordinary. Good people who are not really very good at all: still so different from Jesus that an honest look should send us to our knees to ask for forgiveness and help.
Jesus is good and pure; our motives are always mixed.
Jesus speaks words of life; we speak words that protect our own sense of reality.
Jesus loves sinners and judges sin; we judge sinners and ignore sin.
Jesus is wise; we are dogmatic.
Jesus sees people’s hearts; we see their defenses.
Jesus is very attractive to needy people; we are often the last place they would come.
Something is wrong. To say that the followers of Christ are not just like Jesus is to state the obvious, but to realize that we are as dissimilar as we are is an oxymoron. The impact of our condition on others is that we hurt them and hinder them from seeing and trusting Jesus. The implication for those who have been hurt by us is that they must learn to separate who we are and what we have done from who Christ is.
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