“I realized we had created a Jesus who’s safe for the whole family. But if we were honest, we’d ask, how is a homeless dude who was murdered on a cross for saying he was God safe for the whole family? Not to mention that Paul told us if we choose to follow his example as a follower of Jesus, we will be treated the way that he was. We’ve lost the real Jesus—or at least exchanged him for a newer, safer, sanitized, ineffectual one. We’ve created a Christian subculture that comes with its own set of customs, rules, rituals, paradigms, and products that are nowhere near the rugged, revolutionary faith of biblical Christianity. In our subculture Jesus would have never been crucified—he’s too nice. When I was trying to earn Jesus by being good, I missed the real Jesus who wants us to love him and serve him not for what he gives, but for who he is-dangerous, unpredictable, radical, and amazing.”
-Jefferson Bethke, Jesus>Religion
When I first began my journey of seeking and trying to have a relationship with Jesus, I always hit the same roadblock: I’m not good enough. Attempting to wrap my mind around how someone as broken as me could be close to the son of God? No…that just didn’t add up for me. As funny as it sounds, I felt like if Jesus got to know me, he would be horrified. So, I did what many people do. I avoided the word Jesus all together.
Later on, I jumped onto the cultural Christian train at whatever church I would find myself attending, and I would grasp onto the idea of “safe Jesus.” There are many songs out now that make Jesus sound warm and fuzzy, like the best boyfriend ever. Sure, this was a lot more comforting than my idea of angry, scary, horrified Jesus. But while the idea of a safe and predictable Jesus may bring peace to some people, it actually started to really bother me after a while. It wasn’t authentic…it didn’t make sense. The more I studied scripture and strove to know the true character of who Jesus really was, the more I learned that this while this guy was loving, he was not the sheltered, quiet, teddy bear type.
You know that level of friendship where you know someone still isn’t really going to be honest, open, or tell you how it really is? Well, that is not how Jesus operates. Jesus wasn’t afraid to say some insanely radical things, like:
Deny yourself and follow me… (Luke 9:23)
Serve others above yourself… (Matthew 20:26-28)
If you gain the world, you forfeit life… (Mark 8:34-38)
Sell what you own, give to those in need… (Mark 10:21)
Blessed are the persecuted… (Luke 6:22)
Be anxious for nothing… (Matthew 6:25)
Fear God… (Matthew 10:28)
The exalted will be humbled… (Matthew 23:12)
His grace and love is crazy…irrational…beyond our understanding. It is radical. He wasn’t out to make the safe choices. My true relationship with Jesus was shaped and formed through my realization that nothing I could say or do would scare him off. I’m recklessly human sometimes, and “safe Jesus” wouldn’t know how to handle that. The good news is that the real Jesus can. The real Jesus isn’t afraid to hurt my feelings or challenge me, which is crucial of any authentic, long-term relationship.
I love the real Jesus, because I don’t think he could love me any other way. I am able to accept his love and grace because I understand how truly radical it is. Best of all, the real Jesus is adventurous…and stepping into relationship with him meant stepping into the greatest adventure I could embark on…letting go of fear and gaining a faith that transformed my life radically. True love and friendship challenges, stretches, and brings us into our greater selves. The relentless love of Jesus is just that, and I am extremely grateful for who he really is.