When I met Jesus, he was different than I expected. He was different from what I had been taught as a kid or in graduate school and different from the many books about him.
When I came to the end of myself, Jesus was the one who stayed. He was the one who didn’t shake his head in disappointment, didn’t turn away in disgust. He is the one who knelt down, picked me up, dusted me off. He is the one who embraced me. It was then I realized that the Jesus I had first embraced was different from the one who was embracing me now.
And I realized something else.
That Jesus I could follow.
That Jesus I wanted to follow, needed to follow, couldn’t help but to follow.
Not the Jesus who is wrapped up in a religious system of do’s and don’ts. Not the Jesus who is used to raise money to build more and more buildings or fill the religious treasuries. Not the Jesus who was high jacked for the violent Crusades… persecuting, killing, even mass murdering Jews, Muslims, all non-Christians, and even other Christians who disagreed with them. Not the Jesus who is embraced by a political candidate or party to impress the people. Not the Jesus who wants you to join his club. Not the Jesus who puts a heavy guilt trip on you for not performing. Not the hell-fire-and-damnation Jesus. Nor the meek-and-mild Jesus.
This Jesus is the one I never really knew. The one without Christian verbiage. The one without religious baggage. The one without self-righteous garbage.
This is Jesus plus nothing.
This Jesus is the Jesus that the early followers, called disciples, got to know. For three-and-a-half years they were in an apprentice relationship with Jesus. In their system of education they never made the grade of being chosen by a rabbi to follow in his steps, so they had returned home to work the family business. But this rabbi, this Jesus, this new guy in town, he chooses them to follow him. He picked uneducated, untrained, ordinary men to come along with him and learn from him. In a sense, Jesus chose those who hadn’t made the cut, walk-ons, as the team he wanted on the field in the most important game in the history of the world.
From those early beginnings, the Jesus movement continues to be the largest in the world today. This all-encompassing movement consists of people from every culture and religion on the earth—Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Pantheists, Agnostics. When Jesus is not boxed into any religious system or wrapped up in a package marked “exclusive,” he has proven to be universally attractive throughout the world. People from every culture embrace Jesus, simply Jesus, whether religious or not.
In the Upper Room, shortly before Jesus was captured, interrogated, and tortured to death, one of his followers asked where he was going. Show us the way, he said, so we can follow you.
Jesus responded by saying, “I am the way.”
He didn’t say a religion was the way. Or a certain sect within that religion. He didn’t say a creed was the way. Or a set of spiritual exercises. He said he was the way. He is the road less-traveled. An uncertain road to follow at times, I’ll give you that, even a perilous road. But it is a true road, he told his disciples, and a road brimming with life.
As Jesus walked the fragrant shores of Galilee, people came and saw, came and listened, came and followed. There were no conditions to follow him. No doctrinal statement you had to sign off on. No pledge you had to commit to. You weren’t flagged for your ethnicity or refused for your morality. Your sex didn’t qualify you or disqualify you; neither did your standing in the community. His appeal was simple.
To those hunched over their nets or their accounting tables, to those who were worn out and burned out on religion, Jesus said “Come.” To those of us who are hunched over our desks or our computer tables, those of us who are worn out and burned out, he says, “Come.”
He doesn’t say come to Christianity. He doesn’t say come to Church. He says come to me.
What he offers when we come is recovery.
Recovery of the life we have lost along the way . . . the rhythms we have lost along the way . . . the freedom and the lightness we have lost along the way.
He calls us not to a guilt trip but to a get-a-way.
This is his way, a way largely without words and certainly without swords.
When I came off the withdrawal from my addiction to religion, I looked at this Jesus, this one who for so long had been unknown to me. And I listened to him, this one who for so long I had turned a deaf ear to.
“Come to me,” he said, smiling. And I came.
As I followed him, I came to know him. As I came to know him, I came to love him. In loving him I realized he was enough, realized I was enough. Just as I am. Without one plea. And without one performance.
It is this Jesus I want you to come and see . . . the one I have followed along the shores of the past several years . . . and from whom I have learned the unforced rhythms of grace.
He was my rest and my recovery.
Come and see.
Perhaps he will be yours.
HANG OUT WITH JESUS WITHOUT RELIGIOUS BAGGAGE. CLICK HERE!