I have learned that Jesus appeals to a wide variety of people, including those beyond Christian traditions, such as Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus. However, the message of Jesus is often accompanied by a tremendous amount of baggage. Therefore, people reject the message because of the baggage, or they accept the message along with the baggage and are uncomfortable with some of what they have accepted.
On the other hand, there are some, who are part of some Christian tradition, who find that the baggage is unacceptable, so they reject the baggage and, along with it, they reject Jesus as well. This is also true of those who come to Jesus from outside Christian tradition only to reject him later because of the baggage.
This is an unfortunate and unnecessary situation. Jesus came to remove our alienation from God, from each other, and from ourselves. Our positive response to him is natural and appropriate, but baggage has accumulated around his message that alienates us from the message itself.
What are some elements of this baggage?
- The concept of a harsh, wrathful, and violent god
- The concept of eternal torment
- The concept of biblical inerrancy and its ramifications
- The imposition of burdensome rules of belief and conduct
- The concept that other religions and philosophies are evil
This baggage often leads both intuitive and reflective people to reject Jesus, or even attack him, when the problem is not with Jesus but with the baggage.
The question might be asked: In rejecting these onerous and unacceptable aspects we receive with the message of Jesus, why bother trying to keep Jesus at all? What is the purpose of that?
My answer is that Jesus and his message are valuable. In fact, they are the most valuable thing in the world. People of all sorts want to believe that, but there is a problem: How do we know that the message of Jesus is true?
The most common answer is: ‘Because the Bible says so’, but this is not an acceptable answer. I believe the Bible was written by people who were trying to understand God. And to some extent they may have been inspired by God, but not to the point that we can accept their statements and conclusions as the truth of God himself.
In fact, I believe that most of the writers were significantly deficient in their understanding of God. The writers of Joshua and the stories of David understood God as war-god who supported them against their enemies, even to commanding genocide. I think they were wrong.
So why is the story of Jesus any different?
When I read the gospels, I find a story about a person who changed something essential about the world. Next time we will discuss this person and why he is different.