This week, we dive into Out of Sorts Chapter 2: “Getting to Know Jesus”
We talked last week about Second Naiveté, but we didn’t illustrate what it looks like. In this chapter, Sarah does a beautiful job of doing just that. She tells the story of her family becoming Christians and how in the beginning she had this fascinating, wide-eyed love of this person Jesus (Naiveté). As she grew older Christianity grew more abstract and more about rational thinking and what thing you had to ascent to. So she walked away for a while. But as she found her way back, she locked back on to the person of Jesus (Second Naiveté). And while she still has doubts and questions, she is now has even more child-like wonder and love for this person Jesus.
When we think about our faith, Jesus always has to be the center.
Not just because this is an abstract concept Christians decided was important, but because this person Jesus is the very center of our faith, and the revelation of the God we follow.
But putting Jesus at the center often gets murky, and I think it is because we forget one of the most important things Sarah writes in this chapter:
We aren’t bringing Jesus into our lives. Jesus is welcoming us into his.
I highly recommend reading that sentence again. I can’t quit thinking about it.
It is a very subtle yet important shift, not just in words, but in how we approach our faith. If Christianity is accepting the welcome into Jesus’ life, then everything hinges on being a student and disciple of Jesus. I am in a constant pursuit of knowing, understanding and following Jesus better.
But when we bring Jesus into our lives, we are no longer pursuing Jesus, but creating a version of Jesus that fits our lifestyle.
Here is how I often see this playing out:
We all grow up and live shaped by our culture and experiences. We live in a particular country which is based upon certain ideals and principles. We typically are affiliated with political parties who take hard-line stances on certain issues. We grow up in families who have lots of spoken and unspoken rules on appropriate social and familial behavior.
Even things like race, ethnicity, and gender carry with them culturally ingrained assumptions. We typically have very strong opinions on what effects our race, ethnicity, and gender have on our lives and what it means to be a part of those particular tribes. We have particular faith traditions which hold strongly to beliefs about the Bible, Christian rituals, appropriate activities for Christians to avoid or engage in.
All of these areas of our life greatly affect who we are, our view of God how we see ourselves and others, and they all make claims on what it means to be human.
Most of the time, these things are pretty neutral. They tell us what it means to be a human in a particular time and place. But there are times, when the claims of Jesus need to trump the claims of these various tribes we belong to.
When I am welcomed into the life of Jesus, I get Jesus’ version of what it means to be human and who God is.
I may not see it perfectly, but the struggle is to allow my life to be so caught up in the life of Jesus that I see things his way. Jesus knows the best way for us to be human, and is the exact representation of God, and his whole desire is for us to see how beautiful God is and to be the kind of humans we were always meant to be. So we enter into his life and let him define God and what it means to be human and how we see the world.
When I bring Jesus into my life, the great danger is making Jesus look like me.
So, as an example, if you have a white, American, Republican, fundamentalist, male** who brings Jesus into their lives, often what happens is all of the assumptions that come with these categories are transferred to Jesus. Jesus starts to look a whole lot like a white, American, Republican, fundamentalist, male.
Because all of these categories carry with them strong assumptions, it is possible some of the assumptions will not line up with Jesus. If I am bringing Jesus into my life, I don’t examine those assumptions in light of Jesus, I just assume Jesus makes the same assumptions I do. Which can leave me acting in ways that could completely be opposed to the ways of Jesus, but I label it “Christian.” And I defend it heavily because it is now tied to my faith.
Not only that, but when a person in these categories brings Jesus to their life, they can often begin to marginalize people who are not (in our example) white, American, Republican, fundamentalist, or male. Others’ experience of the world is discarded because it is different from my own. Often it is quite subtle, but we can begin to communicate that to be Christian you need to be in “our” categories and deviating from any of these norms is un-Christian, un-Biblical or, at the very least, inferior.
This is not the vision of life Jesus has for us. Jesus comes to welcome us into a bigger and more expansive version of what it means to be human.
Yet accepting the welcome into Christ’s life does not mean we get rid of any of these categories. It means, in our example, we are now white, American, Republican, fundamentalist, male in whole new ways. We are able to critique the false assumptions of whatever categories we find ourselves and we lean on Jesus for how we understand the world.
We also now have room in our lives for people who different than we are and we see all the beautiful ways those who are different from us bring clarity to the life of Jesus in our world.
Jesus comes to actually give us more life. When we try to get life from any of those categories, what we find is “life that is not actually life.” Jesus comes to welcome us into the beauty of his own life, which welcomes and unifies those who are different so we can continually expand our understanding of God and Jesus’ vision of what it means to be human.
But it starts with making Jesus the center. As we explore our faith and doubt and question and challenge assumptions, we must always keep Jesus at the center.
**Side note: I use this example not as a way to marginalize or exclude any one, but because this is often the dominating paradigm in conservative Christian circles. The whole point here is that we need diversity and other paradigms to help us see Jesus better. Also, because this tends to be the dominant paradigm, people who find themselves in these categories often have a more difficult time separating their cultural assumptions from the life of Jesus. So if you are not in these categories, we need your voice! If you are, please read with an open mind and heart.)