Jesus is not a white guy. I hate to break it to you, but all those pictures you grew up seeing on the walls of your church or in your grandma’s dining room showcasing the fair skinned, blue eyed, handsome white Jesus, are fabrications. They lied to you. Jesus isn’t American; he’s not even campaigning for America’s greatness!
He actually doesn’t care more about Americans than any other humans in the entire world (including Muslims and Communists). I’m serious–I checked the entire Bible and couldn’t find one sentence pertaining to America being the most amazing nation ever in existence. I know, I was shocked too.
Blatant sarcasm aside, if you are like me, raised in a “typical” American Christian home and going to church every Sunday as a child, you know what I am talking about. If you didn’t grow up in this cookie-cutter context, but you grew up virtually anywhere in the United States, chances are you know what I’m talking about. If you grew up in a completely different culture and country, but you have seen Americans on TV, chances are you know what I’m talking about.
Growing up in “the Christian Nation,” it took me a quarter of a century to figure out who Jesus actually was. Western Christianity really screwed this one up. We have become a self-serving, money-driven, achievement-based, all-too-fearful nation, and the American church as a whole has followed right along, loud and proud. It almost seems as if many Christians have never actually read the teachings of the guy on whom their entire religion is based.
There are many contradictions between what we often see in the American church and what we see in the teachings of Jesus, which sucks because Jesus was actually kind of a bad-ass in a counter-cultural, all-inclusive, anti-materialistic, radically bold Love kind of way. He hung out with those many of us wouldn’t even give a second look and was only harsh on the legalistically religious.
Could you imagine what the world would look like if the American church actually lived this way? Generous with its funds, maybe housing the poor instead of spending hundreds of thousands on a fancy building?
The most important command Jesus specifically gave was to Love your neighbor–this command was put on the same level as Love God. What does Love your neighbor look like? It looks like finding a beat up, half-dead member of ISIS on the side of the road, stopping, taking him in, bandaging his wounds, and spending your own money to care for him. Knowing he is your biggest enemy and showing him Love anyway.
Trying to live a life with Jesus means living a completely counter-cultural life. Not the way of religion or the way of cultural Christianity that runs rampant in the United States, but a way of bold, self-sacrificial Love. It’s both incredibly easy and incredibly difficult. It means that Loving others takes priority over Loving yourself in every way: your time, your hobbies, your money, your career.
For much of my life I worked my ass off to provide for my daughter (whom I had very young), to do well in school, to get my degree, to get a good job. My goal was financial security (which is not necessarily a bad thing) and, despite the odds being against me, I achieved it.
However, in the depths of my soul, I know there was more to life, I wanted real meaning. I wanted to live in bold, counter-cultural Love. My passion is pursuing peace and embracing the way of genuine Love with our refugee neighbors from the Middle East. The most amazing people that much of our society has either turned their back on or that are only offered talk instead of action.
So this summer I did something that was incredibly difficult for me. I gave up the job that provided me the financial security I had worked my whole life for in order to work part-time and pursue something I truly believe makes a difference in this world. I take criticism over this decision, many times from Christians, and I understand in our culture of achievement it looks dumb. But honestly, I don’t care, no one ever did anything meaningful without taking big risks. And if you look at the teachings and life of Jesus, giving up financial security to follow his ways and Love others is pretty on point. I mean Peter, Andrew, James, and John literally walked off their job sites in the middle of fishing to follow Jesus. You don’t think that was a risk to their financial security? So, regardless of any risks and being looked at like an idiot, making the decision to pursue something I deeply believe in has brought immense joy into my life and into the lives of my family.
You don’t have to look far (basically read any of the Gospels) to realize that the Middle Eastern Jewish man who lived two thousand years ago and went by the name of Jesus lived a radically minimalist life of bold, risky Love. And to follow this guy on whom a major religion is based is to live a life boldly Loving others first, regardless of how counter-cultural it might look in our society. During this incredibly hateful and divisive period in our country’s history, it’s time to go against the grain and be the change. This is the place we will see true, meaningful purpose and change in our world.