My blog posts so far may give the impression that Christianity is simply a set of arguments, a set of things you believe in, a worldview. But that is utterly incomplete, to the point in which it can even be called a false representation. Christianity, at its core, is a relationship. Yes, it is also a religion, but the relationship aspect of it is so strong that Christians often think they are not following a religion, but simply a person.
This is especially true for the evangelicals/pentecostals, but also the Reformed and the Roman Catholics follow this person of Jesus and seek after reconciliation with God. Why is this relationship so important? Why not just a set of ideas, a philosophy; that we can examine on its own merits (more like Buddhism)? How did that personal relationship keep me in the fold?
Not Just Any Friend
Jesus is not just any “friend”, “lord”, “guru” or “teacher”. He claims to be the Truth, the Way, Life. He hears your every thought. He sees your every action, good and bad. And he still loves you! Despite all your lies, swear words and wicked thoughts and deeds. I truly loved Jesus, as a friend (hence the title of this blog!), as a God, as a Lord. On top of that: he died on a cross to save humanity, including you! And if you may believe the evangelicals, Jesus would have come to the world to die on that cross just for you.
Laid behind a stone
You lived to die
Rejected and alone
Like a rose
Trampled on the ground
You took the fall
And thought of me
There you go: Jesus, the Lord of the Universe, died on the cross and thought about you. How awesome. How personal! The Reformed Christians will shake their head (rightfully so, how can a mortal Jesus be thinking individually about billions of people in the span of a few hours?) but they also believe in Gods divine presence in their lives. They also thank God for health, for instance, or a sorrow-ness over their sins. But I digress.
Why is this concept of a “friend” or at least a “person” so important for Christianity?
The Power of Jesus
Think about it. What if Einstein had a theory – but it turned out to be wrong. Would that invalidate the rest? Nope, not at all. It just shows that he was a human and can be wrong about stuff. So even though we have a lot of respect for the late Einstein, just because he said something doesn’t make it necessarily true.
But Jesus is no Einstein. No, Jesus is treated way beyond a smart guy. Jesus is validated a priori, because, well, He is God; so anything and everything Jesus says or does is approved from the start. Even more, Jesus died on that cross and is personally involved in our lives. To show you what that means, let’s take a look at Matthew 24:
“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. (…)Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”
What if this was a message by Buddha? Or Muhammed? Or some street preacher that is rambling next to the train station? You would probably laugh. This prophecy is simply plain false, no matter how many ways you try to bend the message. Jesus is predicting His return within one generation, and that did not happen. End of story.
But for me, this never created too much of a problem. I didn’t lose my faith because this one promise of Jesus was wrong. As a follower of Jesus, you are following the whole person – not just a set of ideas. It is a package deal – and like with friends, you are very willing to forgive them their mistakes, or even be blind to them. How could this Best-Friend-Who-Is-God be wrong? Nope, if I found a contradiction in the Bible or between Gods promises and actual real life, then either I must have misunderstood Jesus, or I must have the wrong take on things. For most of my life it honestly didn’t even occur to me to start to question one thing Jesus would have said.
Never Betray Your Leader
Even more, it would be utter betrayal. Can you imagine an evangelical or reformed church, where the preacher would say: “Here in Matthew we see that Jesus was
plainly mistaken: He promised something that didn’t come true. What does this teach us about Jesus? Well, if Jesus said this, than surely He is not God”. The audience would gasp, hold their breath, and hope this was all a joke or we would see the elders rush in to take such a heretic preacher off the pulpit.
For most followers of Jesus, it is an all-or-nothing proposal. Yes, I know the liberal Christians view things differently, but there is usually a big chasm between the more fundamental and liberal believers. This is because the Bible itself threatens those who take away its words (Revelations 22:19) or who understand the gospel differently (Galatians 1:8). Jesus is all about heaven and hell, sheep and goats, wheat or chaff, black and white, with no room for grey whatsoever.
Never underestimate the power of Jesus: it is a highly personal dedication that starts out very subtle, gentle and sweet; yet demands your whole soul to devote yourself black-and-white to a point where it is virtually impossible to think otherwise. I am not mocking here, this is simply a re-iteration of clear Biblical teachings.
Overcoming the Power of Jesus
With such a strong relational, all-or-nothing type of faith, it seems no wonder that it took me an enormous amount of courage, struggle and five years to overcome this power of Jesus in my life. Reflecting back on it, it took serious damage in my relation with God (for example reason 1) to even start to question the rest of it.
How could I betray the Lord of this Universe that had died for me?
Only when I came to the firm conclusion that Jesus does not live and is not at all who He claimed to be, I could see past this question. If Jesus never lived as God, then Jesus did not die for me. There was no sins forgiven, no guilt taken away.
Ironically, the only guilt that the cross carried, was my own guilt over not living up to the standards of Jesus and later on, the questions that I had about him. Without the cross, I can truly be free and forgiven.