The Unpopular Jesus
We all know the popular Jesus—the one who said so many generous, patient, tolerant, and graceful things. Everyone loves the popular Jesus. Everyone likes to quote him in speeches to support personal causes. At Easter and Christmas, the popular Jesus helps sell merchandise and fill churches. Many forward-thinking people quote the popular Jesus to resolve problems. World leaders tackle current events relying on the words of the popular Jesus.
But that’s not who I’m taking about.
>The unpopular Jesus is not that marketable. Some of his statements are blunt and tactless. These aren’t quoted much.
Here’s one of them: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me.”-John 14:6
He also said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” -John 5:24
And this: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”-John 11:25-26
Clearly, Jesus needs to brush up on his marketing techniques. Some people don’t even know Jesus said things like that.
Many people don’t understand that Jesus came to call people to a decision, because God calls people to a decision. Jesus wanted to communicate in word and action how much God loved them, so they would choose to love God.
>Anyone who’s interested in spiritual matters must decide if he believes these words of the unpopular Jesus, and if he’ll accept them.
I have another question: Does God, through Jesus, require exclusivity? And is that even fair?
For some reason, I have a problem with allowing God the right of exclusivity.
If God doesn’t allow each individual to discover his or her own way to the afterlife, I call him cruel. I even say he isn’t transcendent, or any kind of God who’s worth loving, especially if the resulting consequence is an eternity absent from his presence (hell, if you will).
But does that really make sense?
After all, I practice exclusivity in my own life. And others expect it from me. If I told my wife on our wedding night that she would have to let me share love sexually with others for the sake of love itself, our marriage probably wouldn’t work. I might try to convince her that the more love we share with others, the more love we will contribute to the world. I could love my wife, the neighbor lady, and the woman in the grocery store and whoever else was willing to share. This communal love would bring more good, and the universe would become a better place as we added and added and added, right? She would probably call me a pig and send me packing—appropriately so. She wants exclusivity in our relationship. She wants fidelity. That is, if I truly love her.
>So I think my problem with the idea that God would require exclusivity is actually something else. It’s a problem with a relational expectation I don’t think God should have.
Nevertheless, I’ve come to see that God, in his faithful love for us, doesn’t want us to devote ourselves to whatever “god” on the smorgasbord tickles our fancy. So I settle on a connection with God being relational in nature, and, therefore, exclusive in practice—in a healthy, authentic way.
>I have to ask myself whether I’ll accept such a nonnegotiable relational expectation from God.
Will I allow him to require loyalty and faithfulness? If so, I have to allow him to define that loyalty as he sees fit.
I think it’s fair to let God require exclusivity in the relationship. And I don’t think it’s about a monopoly on belief, religion, or belief systems. It’s about God wanting a relationship with us and wanting us to spend eternity with him. Certainly, any of us is free not to establish that relationship.