After growing up in a Christian home going to church almost every week all my life, being a youth pastor for 8 years, and having two of my Masters Degrees from seminary, I am well acquainted with Christianity. As much as I enjoy and appreciate being a believer I had a realization this week: There is a downside to Jesus. In all honesty, I have no problem with tithing, volunteering, or going to church; some people hate these things, but I’ve found they’ve helped develop my self-discipline and character. I don’t even mind the fact that the Church has a history of screwing up, and we know how to screw up. What I struggle with is the constant barrage of sermons, songs, and readings that solely emphasize that Jesus died for us. Yes, I know this is an incredibly important event for Christianity, and that Jesus in the last supper “took some bread… broke it in pieces… saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me’,” (Luke 22:19) but in most Christian circles the message is constantly driven, “Jesus died for you,” “Jesus died because of your sin,” “Jesus died because you’re not good enough.” I know; I get it. Jesus died, and it’s because of humanity or as the message says, me; “Jesus died for you.” But here’s the thing: There’s more to Jesus and Christianity than Jesus died. The Gospel accounts are based on his life. Jesus is more than just death. He loved. Jesus cared for the sick, those with physical disabilities, the poor, the prostitutes, and the people in prison. Jesus wasn’t just about death; He was also about life. He even says “I came to bring life to the fullest.” (John 10:10 para) Most Christians aren’t living that way. They’re stuck on “Jesus died.” Why would anyone want to be a Christian if it was just about death? That’s depressing and full of shaming: (pastor) “It’s your fault He died.” (me) “But I didn’t ask Him to.” When Jesus was alive He preached about love. He ultimately taught how to be happier and how to enjoy life more. He wasn’t just saying, “I’m going to die for you, so you owe me. Kiss my feet.” He lived a life that was full of adventure, scandal (he upset his share of aristocrats), and loving people. Jesus lived! So why are we just preaching death?
Every morning over breakfast I enjoy reading a little devotion; after today’s typical “Jesus died” message it said “Salvation is infinitely costly, but absolutely free.” If it’s free why is it constantly rubbed in my face? It’s like Jesus did this so now I owe Him. It bugs me that we’ve made this “gift” into something where we’re now in debt. It’d be like giving someone a great Christmas gift and then saying, but now you have to cut my lawn all summer. That’s not a gift. That’s a down payment for service. Many Christians are essentially reducing the life and death of Jesus to a loan from the bank: (banker) “Here’s some money that you have to pay back with interest.” That’s not a gift. That’s a debt. Christianity is supposed to be about freedom and we’ve made it a mortgage arrangement. I don’t know about you, but if someone gives me a “gift” that puts me in debt I don’t want it.
I know the death is important, but there comes a point where repeating this is just causing unnecessary guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy. If Jesus came to give life to the fullest like He said then we need to balance that with the reality that there is more to Jesus than death. It’s time Christianity started emphasizing that Jesus is about life, life that is supposed to be about purpose, happiness, and the greatest of all, love. Let’s start loving more and shaming less.
This week may you start to see what life really means.
Rev. Chad David, www.ChadDavid.ca, Learning to love dumb people