taking the words of Jesus seriously

It would be easy to make the argument that Christianity in the 21st has taken on an identity few of the original disciples would recognize.

Or maybe they would recognize it – but certainly not as anything Jesus called them – or us – to.

Christianity, in all too many churches and institutions and individual lives has become a shadow, even a mockery of what it was meant to be.

Most Christians I encounter and hear about are obsessed with “straining at the gnats” as Jesus put – wailing and gasping about the little things that don’t matter and neglecting or justifying those things that do matter. 

How many sermons or hushed conversations do you hear about books that should be banned, or “wokeism” or “antifa” or a dozen other “menacing” threats (that barely exist) while the pastors or “believers”  don’t seem to care at all about either real issues – like mass shootings literally  every day across America, raging climate catastrophes around the world, mass starvation at a level the world has never seen before, homelessness at a level no so-called advanced civilization has ever seen before.  

In short, we see people afraid, hungry, dispossessed and besieged – and what do American Christians for the most part care about? Fantasies, conspiracies and of course, “culture wars”.  In short, anything but Jesus.     

And of course, they do anything except what Jesus would do.

Don’t expect to find anything (or anyone) like Jesus in most churches.

Somehow “Christians” across America have become defined (and have defined themselves) not by abundant love, grace and forgiveness, but by hostility, fear and suspicion.

Instead of being carriers of “Good News” far too many “Christians” have become literal “carriers” of lethal weapons – and seem eager to use them.

Somehow killing people has become the most important “right” that many claim.

Helping people in need, as in the well-known parable of the “Good Samaritan” is obviously not in the job description of these current “Christians” – but harassing trans people is.

A church I have long been a part of emphasizes “Christianity” – but rarely mentions Jesus.

“Christianity”, as a focus, like the beliefs and values of the NT Pharisees, is about being “good” – a good parent, a good citizen, even a good neighbor – but certainly not about anything Jesus would recognize as being challenging, transformative or even worth living – or dying – for.

Rare is the church that has any “good news” to tell. At least as Jesus would know it; liberty to the captives? Justice for the persecuted? Hope for the lost? Food for the hungry?

You will find those things in few churches in America today.

But you will find churches (and sermons) full of self-congratulations and self-righteousness and, all too often, contempt and disgust, instead of a helping hand for those who need it. 

For God so loved the world….

This is easily the most widely known, and memorized, and I would argue, most neglected, verses in the Bible.

God, as a beginning point, as the ultimate reference, “loved” the world.  Doesn’t it follow that, being created in the image of God, that should be our first operating principle?

I don’t know about anyone else, but the vast majority of “Christians” I know not only don’t “love” the world – they are passionate and energized by the entire categories of people (!) they feel “called” to denigrate and harass.

These “targets” are, like each one of us, created in the image of the living God and yet, for some reason, because of race, fashion choices or lifestyle preferences, they have (in the eyes of some at least) somehow lost their standing among those of us seem so eager to stand in judgement, and yes, cast that first stone.

I have a simple guideline; if someone is urging you to join the “outrage of the month” club (from CRT to trans to beer to animated candies and a near infinite variety of real or imaginary enemies) or selling divisiveness or teaching animosity and fear toward those Jesus told us to show compassion to, they are certainly not teaching anything Jesus would.

It might be “Christianity” but it is nothing like what we are called to.

Paul taught “Jesus – and him crucified” not bromides and comfortable “assurances. And certainly not “commands” to persecute others – for any reason – but to stand for justice, decency, and even a love that transcends human understanding.

“What would Jesus do?” was a popular phrase several years ago. It was a trend that emerged – and quickly disappeared.

“What would Jesus do?” was (or at least often was) a guiding conviction to do the right, compassionate, generous thing, even when it could be costly.

After a year or so, many Christians found the burden too hard to carry. And many, if not most, decided that they didn’t want to know, or even think about “What Jesus would do”.

So another “movement” filled the vacuum; “What would (those who crucified) Jesus do?”

This was far easier to follow and live up to.

This is far more easily recognizable in the public/media sphere – or in any church or conversation.

There are two benchmarks – both plainly visible in the Scriptures and, for many of us, in our daily lives.

The first is a sense of self-righteousness, usually with the corollary belief that “I am saved/worthy and ‘those people’ are not”.

The second identifier is the deliberate, even “theological” justification for denigrating, attacking, even executing those who have been designated less than human.

This is the ultimate rationalization for ethnic cleansing, apartheid, segregation and death camps. 

The logic goes – if these are less than human, we are justified in treating them less than humanly.

I heard one “Christian” describe a trans woman as a “robo-whatever” that deserved no rights, and certainly no respect.

I wonder about the depth of this person’s theology; is hormonal treatment or physical appearance enough to somehow separate one from their state of being created in the image of God?

Who else, in this theology, is not “good enough” to be treated and respected as a fellow human being?  

The Bible, if not human decency, shows us that we have all “fallen short” and that, no matter what we may look like, we all come from the same Creator’s hand.

Not long ago I was driving my granddaughter to one of her activities. On the way, we saw a cluster of tarps and makeshift shelters and several people bundled up against the frigid winter morning.

“That’s so sad…” was all she could say.

Yes, it was sad – on many levels.

In God’s eyes it was certainly “sad” that in this city filled with those who call themselves “believers” not one could step up and offer help or shelter.

There was not a single “good Samaritan” to be found, not even “ten righteous” to be found in a whole modern “Christian” city….

Some cities have even legally banned assistance to the homeless and hungry. And they often use “scripture” to justify their actions. Just like those Pharisees so long ago…

About The Author


Faith is not a formula. And I wouldn't even use the word 'relationship' - and probably not the metaphor of 'a journey'. The older I get, the more it seems that faith is a process - a determined focus on listening to the eternal, sifting out the noise and distractions and becoming closer with each breath and each word, to the fullness - and emptiness - of the pulse, hand and purpose of our Creator, which, ultimately brings us where we belong. I'm a teacher and writer, which really means that I am a listener and I share what I see and hear.

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