There are some things that people just don’t like to talk about. I think it goes something like this… in polite conversation you are not allowed to talk about politics or religion… of course that is a very old adage and for the most part it has fallen by the wayside. Because politics is THE topic of the day nearly every day, and rightly so. The actions of the President and Congress and especially our local city or county commissioners effects all of our lives. I mean, whenever there is a new bill about to be proposed we all ask, “How is this going to effect me or my family?”
Now as for religion, the conversations get a little trickier. You can talk about religion. Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, vague far-eastern religions with names you can’t pronounce… you can talk about those. You can talk about God. You can talk about your “sense of spirituality” heck, you can even talk about Jesus, and people won’t typically care. Even Deepak Chopra has book on Jesus… but the conversations we have about Jesus have to framed in just the right sort of way.
We can believe in and talk about Jesus as a great teacher, philosopher, challenger of the status quo, spiritual guru… even the whole saving-people-from-their-sins part is okay as long as you demystify it and take God’s wrath out of the equation so it becomes more of “self-help” tactic than actual salvation. We can talk about what Jesus means to me, how he has given me hope and light, how he comforted children, and told people to be generous. We can put Jesus into our little socially-defined boxes and be just fine in conversation. You can invent your own views about Jesus, outlandish and unsubstantiated as they may be while casting dispersions on 2,000 years of historical tradition, and you will be excepted in academic and social circles and even admired as tolerant and innovative.
But try to talk about the Jesus of the Bible, and you may see some uncomfortable looks and people squirming in their seats. Start quoting passages like “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Or “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30). Or any passage that speaks about Christ as the Son of God or that speak about him in exclusive terms or that speak about judgment… speak about the actual Jesus and those are conversations our culture won’t let us have.
So, what are we to do? Slink back into the corner? Shut our eyes and ears to the world around us, all the while ignoring the fact that we live in a country that supposedly stands for religious tolerance?
The Church has got to be louder. It has got to be bolder. Christians must refuse to allow for the sanitized, personalized image of Jesus to prevail when we know the truth. For it is “the truth [that] will set you free.” Not the lie, not the acceptable version of the truth. But the truth, that Jesus, the biblical, actual Jesus, is the only way… whether we like it or not. The problem is that it is difficult for us to do. It’s difficult for Christians to get hyped up about something that with surely ostracize us.
It’s not that Christians won’t get excited or stand up for against things. Christians have loud and boisterous opinions about the new healthcare package. Christians get excited about the next Joel Olsteen or Tim Lehaye or Chris Tomlin. Most Christians, especially in the southeastern US, have a favorite college of professional football team they will defend tooth and nail against their bitter rivals. And believe me, I’m not speaking self-righteously here… I get jacked up about all those things too. And there is nothing wrong about having passionate opinions about those sorts of things.
But who will defend Jesus against the attacks of syncretism? Who will stand up and say, “that’s not the Jesus of the Bible”? “That’s not who Jesus was or is.” Of course, actions speak louder than words, but silence in the face of lies speaks even louder and it’s time for the Church to stand up and be counted… not merely against those religions that we can see, but also against those that would seek to replace the one true faith with a lie.