When you only want half of Jesus

Imagine you walk into the grocery store and fill your shopping cart with essentials. Not the name brand products either. Just what you need to get by. Then, when you go to pay for your cart of groceries, you present the sales clerk with half a credit card. Do you think you’ll get to go home with your groceries?

Instead, what if you gave her half the amount of money you owe the store. Your groceries would cost $50, but you only have $25. Do you think you’d be able to take home the entire cart of groceries? No, of course not.

In the case of the half of a credit card, you wouldn’t get to take anything home. In the case of half the cash, you’d have to take home half of what you wanted to purchase. And that’s a silly example maybe, but why do we think that following Jesus is different? Why do we expect to get all the benefit of belonging to Him if we only want half of Him?

Everybody loves Jesus, right?

He was a great teacher, an amazing role model, and he stood up to the oppressive religious leaders. He encouraged His followers to forgive their enemies and turn the other cheek and be patient with each other.

All of that is true. But it’s only one side of the coin. And trying to force this politically correct portrait of Jesus into the mold of human society is like trying to pay for your groceries with half a credit card. It doesn’t work.

Because, no, not everybody loves Jesus. Not everybody is supposed to. And if you’re truly a follower of Jesus, not everyone will love you either (Matthew 10:22).

Jesus is a paradox. He’s impossible. He came both to unite people with God (Romans 8:15-17) yet divide people from each other (Luke 12:51). He came to offer a way to salvation (John 3:16), but that means facing the truth that the world is condemned without Him (John 3:17). He is God. He is Man. He died. He lives today. He is. And if you think you can explain Him with a few quaint platitudes that fit your definition of Christianity, you’re wrong.

You can’t have half of Jesus. You can’t follow half of Jesus. If you try it, you’ll always be confused and at odds with the Bible. Because Jesus didn’t come to discredit the Bible (Matthew 5:17). He came to complete what’s already there.

Yes, Jesus loves everyone, but no one deserves to be loved.

Yes, Jesus saves everyone who comes to Him, but not everyone will choose to be saved.

Yes, Jesus forgives anyone, but you can’t be forgiven if you don’t ask for it and admit that you are wrong.

Jesus isn’t this pale-hearted milktoast literary figure who blesses people in flowery language and always smiles with a shining halo around his head. Nor is He a religious zealot intent on tearing down the government or protesting every action of a country’s leaders just for spite.

You can’t label Him. You can’t stereotype Him. And if you think you can, you don’t know Him.

During His life on earth, Jesus was the most compassionate, most loving, most tender-hearted man alive. But that didn’t mean He refused to stand up against tyranny, against oppression and persecution. But He didn’t riot and damage property. He stood for truth and justice peacefully, calmly, meekly. He asked questions instead of demanding answers, and He gained a reputation for being someone who spoke with authority instead of someone who demanded what He was owed.

American Christians could learn a lot about how to handle life from Jesus. Ironic, isn’t it?

You can’t separate Jesus’ love from His righteousness. You can’t separate His mercy and His justice. You can’t separate His compassion from His holiness. You can’t separate Jesus from God because They are the same Person.

Does that make you uncomfortable? It should. Jesus has always made people uncomfortable, and the day He stops, is the day we’ve truly forgotten who He is. He should always make us think about what we believe and why we believe it. He should always make us realize how unworthy we are, yet how valuable we are to Him.

So where does that leave us? How do we press forward in this exhausting, emotional, conflicted existence when we don’t understand? How do we decide what is right and what is wrong and how to live?

It’s not as complicated as people make it seem. It’s cliched, but what did Jesus do? How did He live?

He loved everyone, yes, but he didn’t make excuses for them. (That’s not love, by the way.) He accepted everyone, but that didn’t mean He dismissed what was true. He spent time with people who disagreed with Him, but He never compromised what was right. He lived sacrificially to serve other people, but even He still paid His taxes (Matthew 22:21, Mark 12:17, Luke 20:25).

If you ask the world about a lifestyle like that, they won’t know what to do with it. It makes no sense to them, and if you don’t know Jesus, it won’t make sense to you either.

Don’t accept the world’s view about Jesus. Don’t even accept the Church’s view on Jesus. Read about Him for yourself. And then spend some time with Him. Get to know Him personally. I promise, you won’t ever be the same. And that, my friends, is the point.

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The value of being genuine and the cost of being fake

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Most Monday nights, my roomie and I grab our fleece blankets and watch Antiques Roadshow on PBS. Sometimes we color, and other times we just watch, but we always marvel at the array of valuable items people hang on their walls or use for storing spare change.

And then sometimes we grimace in sympathy for the poor folks who bring in priceless artifacts that turn out to be reproductions. Items these people spend hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars on are worth only pennies in comparison.

That should tell us something about the value of being genuine, not just in living but in living for Christ.

I like genuine people. I like knowing that the person I’m talking to is real, honest, transparent. I like knowing that they’re telling me exactly what they feel, because then there’s no surprises later. But how many genuine people do we really know? How many genuine Christ-followers do we know?

We can find a definition for being a genuine Christ-follower in 1 John 4:20-21. “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.

You don’t get much clearer than that. If you want to be a genuine Christ-follower, you need to love people. What I find interesting is that this passage says we’re supposed to love other Christ-followers. Shouldn’t that be easy?

Have you ever been around a church?

Christians are the hardest people in the world to love. I’ve been blessed with so many awesome Christ-followers in my life, and they are priceless to me. But I’ve also been surrounded by Christians who aren’t so nice.

Religion and church people have torn me up inside. They’ve cut me to ribbons and left me bruised and broken at the side of the road. And other church people have seen me lying there and kept on walking. The people in my life who have dealt me the deepest wounds are people who claim to follow Jesus.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]You can’t let what someone else has done to you force you into being someone God never intended you to be.[/su_pullquote]

It’s not okay. But if you’ve been there, you’re not alone. And you can’t let what someone else has done to you force you into being someone God never intended you to be.

Jesus didn’t save us because we’re smart or funny or pretty. He didn’t save us because we’re popular or the best at something. Jesus saved us because He loves us for who we are. He’s the only one who really knows us that well anyway.

So why not be real? Why not be genuine? Sure, it’s a little scary to reveal your heart and your soul to other people. Believe me. I’m an introvert. I know.

Why not love people? Loving others can be dangerous, yes. You always risk your heart when you love, but focus instead on loving God more than you love people. And He’ll give you the love you need to share with others.

Being genuine, loving people, doesn’t really cost you anything. Being with people costs you less in emotional damage than the price you pay by hiding your heart.

You want to be valued? Be genuine. You want to be genuine, Christians? Love your brothers and sisters in Christ. God’s words. Not mine.