Do you ever feel like some of the people you love know a different Jesus than you do? The word “pluralistic” has taken on a whole new meaning when it comes to western religion, and it seems that, within Christianity, we are attached to a number of different Jesuses. (is that the proper plural for “Jesus?” Please advise…)
I’m not going to elaborate a great deal because I know you know what I mean. You know people who share your faith–technically speaking–but when it comes to social, ideological, political and theological issues, you begin to find that you are following a whole nother Jesus than they appear to be. For better or worse, the savior of the world has been adapted and interpreted by said world a few times. When someone asks me if I’m a Christian, I’m tempted to say, “well, not like you mean.”
One of my favorite features on Facebook is the “mutual friends” display. You can go to any friend’s page and see who else they’ve connected with that you also know. Sometimes, there’s a fun suprise. Sometimes, you see that your friend from high school and your friend from college know each other, and you marvel at how small the world is, after all. Your friend from a summer job and your future brother-in-law used to date. Who knew?
So, if Jesus was on Facebook, wouldn’t it be fun to peruse all your mutal friends? Wouldn’t it be fun to call your college roommate and say, “hey, how do you know Jesus?” Therein lies the answer, I think, to our multiple-Jesus problem. If we could ask of our friends who seem to speak a different faith language than us, “How do you know Jesus?” we could begin to understand the language barrier.
Because, my hunch is, where you met Jesus has alot to do with what you know about him and how you talk about him. Go through your facebook friends and think of all the points of connection that led you to them. Then imagine that you also encountered Jesus at that time in your life. Or maybe I should say, remember how you met him there. How did the encounter of that time and place shape the Jesus you know now?
Do you find Jesus among the friends you knew in the church nursery, before any of you could speak? Did he live in your old neighborhood? Did you reconnect with him in college, or meet him for the first time at your crappy just-out-of-college job? Maybe he was roommates with your ex. Maybe you met him once at a party and he remembered you, friended you, and you haven’t spoken since. Maybe he sold you your first house, or guided you through the process of adopting a child. Perhaps he lives next door to you, but you park in the garage, so you’ve never actually spoken. Does he fix your latte at Starbucks every day? Or teach your children at school?
Which Jesus is your story about? Who are the friends that you and Jesus really have in common? You might be suprised. You might never know, because they’re talking about high school church camp Jesus, and you only knew him in college, when he was bass-player in a grunge band. Maybe those places and people have little in common. But faith asks that we seek the common thread, even if pulling at it begins to unravel some things. The Spirit compels us, not to deny the legitimacy of someone else’s faithspeak, but to ask, instead, “how do you know?”