This is a statement that my lead pastor began a series through Galatians with. It hits to the deepest part of my relationship with Jesus and my understanding of the Gospel. Many of us try to make faith in Christ a Jesus ‘plus’ Gospel and create boundaries for entrance into the covenant community of faith. You need to clean up your act if you want to be a Christian, people will say either explicitly or implicitly. For instance, when we have moments of opportunity to point people toward Jesus, it is like they have given us a sack of stones as a vulnerable act of seeking. We have three options at this point. 1) We can throw the stones at them out of complete disgust for their sin. 2) We can build a wall between us and them by saying “Jesus + __________ = acceptance by God and us,” and thereby eliminate any chance of doing the third option that we see modeled in the New Testament. 3) We use the stones to build a bridge to both us and ultimately to Christ.
Now this does not mean that doctrine and sound approaches to the Scriptures get left behind (ha, no pun intended regarding my subtitle). It means the things we impose on the Bible get left behind in comparison to the surpassing greatness of simply knowing and being known by Jesus Christ! As we attempt to appropriately interpret Scripture and live in relationship with the Spirit of Jesus, we must keep in mind that it is not our ideas or beliefs that we cling to, but Jesus himself.
So, Jesus plus nothing… hhhmmm… What am I saying? I am saying two things. 1) When we add things to Jesus and his Gospel we actually minimize it and build walls between God and seekers. 2) In our own lives and reflections on truth, we need to have humility that we may be wrong, and cling to the ONLY thing that is ALWAYS RIGHT: Jesus! Jesus plus nothing equals everything! What does this mean for me? Well, since you asked, it means:
— I might be wrong about issues of the scope of the Gospel, meaning maybe God really only died for individuals and not for the whole community of faith and ultimately for the renewal of the cosmos in “new heavens and new earth.” BTW, I have been accused at times of being a Universalist, but I simply am not.
— I might be wrong about my approach to justice issues and my libertarian friends may be right (in two senses )— I might be wrong and this nation may actually be the “new Israel” and the doctrine of manifest destiny may have been right (Ok, I really doubt this one; but not enough to at least admit that I may be wrong in some aspects)
— I might be wrong, and Jesus may actually believe in the just war theory of St. Augustine.
— I might be wrong about the role of women, and perhaps biblical faithfulness does not actually permit them to be pastors, teachers, and elders.
— I might be wrong about Jesus’ message being quite focused on the poor and marginalized.
— I might be wrong in suggesting that the Roman Empire was being subverted by the early church.
— I might be wrong and five point Calvinism may be 100% truth.
— I might be wrong in that the Bible may only actually be supposed to be interpreted in the “plain sense” and not in light of the original intent of the authors and genre they chose to employ.
— I might be wrong and the seven-day creationists may be right.
— I might be wrong and the Holy Spirit’s charismatic gifts may have actually ceased after the closing of the canon of Scripture (well, actually, because of my relationship to God and experiences he has blessed me with; I doubt I’m wrong here )
But the ONE THING THAT I WILL CLING TO IS JESUS! He is the One who is in us, “the hope of glory.” So, what is at the epicenter of Jesus being the ONLY thing/one that matters? I think Paul makes it very clear to us in his letter to the Corinthians, when he calls these things of “first importance.” He states:
3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures… 1 Corinthians 15.3-4
Relationship with the resurrected Jesus (through the Holy Spirit) is what matters most! If we can embrace that, then the statement: Jesus + Nothing = Everything, will make sense. When we live out a faith that is empowered the Spirit of Christ in us, NOTHING else matters… and in doing so, we gain EVERYTHING!