I encounter a number of people who do not want to hear “Jesus” in the conversation. It’s as if a brain wave has a fart and immediately odorizes the thought patterns. I understand their reaction and I can’t take offense because they often equate Jesus with religion and the Christian Church. But, consider this. Does Christianity need Jesus to validate its existence? Yes, of course. The theology is thick with the virgin birth, the man/God, the divinity, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. Without those elements , it would be just another minor, extremist sect.
Does the living Jesus need Christianity? Absolutely not. Leave theology out of the Christian walk and what remains is the man who has eternally been a voice for tolerance, love, and compassion; he remains a champion of the world’s disenfranchised and oppressed. Unfortunately, as in Jesus’ earth life, the dogma and doctrines of some of today’s hypocritical religious institutions are crucifying that unifying voice. They have disguised the power of the universal almighty Sovereign and one of its messengers, Jesus of Nazareth, and have defined that power as a vindictive, intolerant code of laws.
The historicity of Jesus of Nazareth has been studied, argued, and disputed by scholars who have devoted a lifetime to this undertaking. Some reference the writings of a Jewish historian, Josephus, who mentions Jesus, a worker of incredible acts and a teacher. Other scholars dispute this paragraph in the writing of Josephus saying it was inserted at a later time. Some scholars note that the time span of the writings later defined as the Gospels by Christianity point to historical accuracy. More recently the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi scriptures give further credence to the belief that Jesus was a historical fact. It doesn’t matter if the man called Jesus was a living being in ancient Israel. The legacy he created, the legacy attributed to him is sufficient to lead me through the valleys of darkness and despair and the lion pits of life. It is more than sufficient to set me on the highest mountain and soar with the eagles. Martin Luther King, Jr. and I have been to the mountain top; we have seen the promised land.
The bottom line is that none of us knows with certainty whether the Christian Church has nailed the truth with its theology. Karl Marx called religion….”the sigh of the oppressed creature….the heart of a heartless world.” He also named religion as the opioid of the masses. karl marx
In a world overrun with physical and psychological brokenness, is there anything wrong with a spiritual opioid? Perhaps not. “The heart of a heartless world” strikes a chord within me. I have experienced the joy of communal worship, the escape from a heartless world afforded by my religious tradition. As in the realm of pharmaceuticals, a spiritual opioid used as intended can be a tremendous pain reliever. Used indiscreetly, it can become a vicious master and enslaver intent on destruction.
I need a doctor in my life to fix my brokenness, a physician who can prescribe a faith walk which will enhance my solidarity with all mankind, not just the ones who look, think, talk, smell, and worship like me. I need a shepherd who will lead me into pastures of inclusiveness and tolerance, not thorn-filled fields with noxious weeds. I need Jesus in my life, not to make me more religious, but to create me in a new image, a transformed version of the old Larry.
Here’s a verse from Helen Lemmel’s song which has renewed my spirit innumerable times when I feared being swamped by a heartless world: