The real Jesus
February 26, 2012 by Bill
A popular hymn in Christian churches is “Fairest Lord Jesus.” I have wondered if the author of that hymn ever read the life of Jesus in the Gospels. Assuming they are even half way correct there is certainly no fairest Jesus presented as “fairer than the meadows… fairer than the moonlight… fairer than the twinkling stars.” You almost choke over the perfumed sweetness of it all.
I say again, assuming the Gospels are even half way correct, there is no “fairest of the fair” there, no spine-less wishy-washy trying to be everyone’s friend. You would never hear Jesus singing “smile and the world smiles with you”…or hear him say, “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”
He would never have taken a Dale Carnegie course on “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” He would never have been voted “Man of the Year” by the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce.
To the Pharisees he said, “you vipers… you hypocrites… you are full of extortion and rapacity. You are like whitewashed tombs… you are full of dead men’s bones and iniquity.” To the religiously pious and self-righteous he said, “The prostitutes will go into the Kingdom of God before you.” (Matthew 21:31) You don’t hear many sermons on that text by those who play church.
This is the man who responded with anger on many occasions and who walked through the temple and cleaned it out. He had no intention of being everyone’s buddy or friend. No imperial power wastes time crucifying contemplative, harmless, spiritual mystics. Jesus was killed in the manner of one found guilty of insurrection. “Fairest” people are not killed for insurrection.
This man, born a Jew, lived a Jew, died a Jew and said repeatedly he was only fulfilling the Jewish religion. Being a Jew means that today he would not be admitted to many of our private clubs run by Christians. Many of us Christians who belong to those clubs would have to visit with Jesus out on the sidewalk if he dropped by.
Those Jesus chose for friends would be a terrible offense to many of us sitting in our cozy pews on Sunday morning. Mary Magdalene, a prostitute, Peter and Andrew, James and John, crude fishermen, Zacchaeus and Matthew, hated tax collectors. Jesus was accused of being a “drunkard and a glutton.” (Matthew 11:19) and of “being beside himself.”
The distinguished historian Arnold Toynbee wrote that the people who were involved in the early first century church after the death of Jesus would most closely resemble today those who live in communes and on the streets.
The much loved Senior Minister of the famed City Temple of London, Leslie Weatherhead, told his congregation one Sunday that if Jesus were alive today in London he would not be at the Women’s Church Tea parties, but rather he would be down in the red light district and the pubs of the docks visiting with those who labor and are used.
He would not be in the martini and golf groups of our Episcopal churches here in the valley of the wealthy. The Episcopalians still have not recovered from my column on this some years ago in Palm Springs. Good.
This Jesus never asked anyone what theological creeds they recited, what dogma or doctrine they believed, or what communion requirements they approved of, or whether they believed in the trinity or the stories about his birth.
This man, Jesus, today would walk the streets and go into the bars and clubs, the offices and homes, to mix with the atheist, the agnostic, the prostitute and tax collector, the gays and lesbians, and those of us with our thin lipped, pious minds, would, once again, even as they did then, consider him a “great offense.”
This man, Jesus, would say today, to about 99 percent of the Christian church, “STOP this mushy, syrupy adulation of me. That is easy. Rather try something that is difficult. Go forth and live mercy, live justice, live righteousness, LIVE LOVE.”
Albert Schweitzer said it this way: “We must lift the spirit of love from all of the trappings of dogmas and doctrines and creeds that have been created by the theologians of past centuries and let only the spirit of love become central for our lives. TO DO ANY LITTLE THING, DAILY, IN THE SPIRIT OF LOVE IS ALL A PERSON MUST DO TO BE A CHRISTIAN.”
This man Jesus despised the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of his day, even as he would today. Those “leaders” who placed dogma, tradition, creeds, doctrine, rules, laws, everything above and more important than the needs and feelings of human beings. He was no “fairest Lord Jesus.” He blasted this hypocrisy head on in plain language. And there was no misunderstanding. What a blessing it would be for all of us if that could happen today in the Christian church.