So many people try to sell the idea of Jesus as the boogeyman. They use him as a guilt trip and try to drag us along for the ride. They will say that we are going to burn in hell if we don’t follow Jesus. Or they will say that we can’t go to their church if we don’t follow him the way that they follow him. Or they say that we will be condemned by God for whatever behavior they find sinful, but isn’t named as a sin by Jesus.
They are motivated out of fear. They will do what their pastor says without thinking. They won’t question anything, and they will stay within the lines of whatever proscription their church has set up for them.
I don’t know about you, but that kind of motivation never worked well for me. I’m a questioner. I’m a person who likes to ask “why”. I need to understand the “why” so I can understand the “how” and the “what”. It isn’t that I’m being difficult. I’m not trying to get out of whatever task I’ve been assigned. I simply respond better to love than fear.
I never wanted the Jesus these fear-lead people were selling – the mean, overlord, high-school-principal, micromanaging-boss Jesus. But sadly, these were the loudest people. Their message drowned out the one from more rational people. Their version of Jesus didn’t fit with what I read in the Gospels.
I needed a Jesus who was about love and service. I needed a Jesus who taught me how to humble myself, but not in a way that was belittling. I mean humble in a way that lets the light of God shine through, but using me as the lens. This way, I’m still there, but I’m not in the way. I become a vehicle rather than a driver.
This way is possible but it requires a lot of independent study and prayer. There are some churches that teach about this version of Jesus. They are the ones that understand that the “church” is the people and not the building. They are the ones who take the message of “love your neighbor” to heart and prove it with their actions. They are worth the effort to find.