Talking About Jesus
There are people who read what I write and ask me why I don’t you talk about Jesus. Some of the ask me whether I really am a Christian and, if I am, why do I not sound like that? They think all this talk of spiritual life and sacred stillness sounds a little vague.
Some people want to understand how I experience spirituality. Others seem a little nervous I am trying to pull something over on them.
Let me assure you my spiritual journey grows in and reflects the Christian tradition. I have spent time in a number of different Christian churches and denominations, primarily Protestant ones.
I was born a Methodist and became a Congregationalist by the time I was in first or second grade. A pastor and his family moved in across the road from us and we began attending their church. That is the church where I began to appreciate spiritual life.
When I was eight years old I was “born again” and accepted Jesus into my heart. I was baptized there. It shaped my understanding and expectations about spiritual life in significant ways.
There have been other churches along the way. I have been a member of Presbyterian and Reformed churches, as well as nondenominational congregations. Two different Baptist denominations welcomed me. I have been a confirmed member of the Episcopal church for quite some time.
Of course, I am also a lay Oblate at a Roman Catholic Benedictine hermitage.
Each of the churches on my long and winding path has shaped how I understand spiritual life. Like with any friend we have had for a long time, the ways I know Jesus have grown and developed.
I do not talk about Jesus the same way I did when I was eight years old.
How We Talk About Jesus
Each of says and hears the name Jesus in our own unique, personal ways.
For some of us it is a name which has been used to intimidate us or cause us to feel guilty. Some of say it primarily when we are frustrated or when we hit our toe on something hard.
Others of us call on Jesus to help us when we most need it. Some of us cry out for strength or for mercy. I know people who ask for help as they deal with addiction or other illnesses. Other people depend on Jesus as they lose someone they love or struggle to find a new job.
Many of us do not grasp all the intricate details of theology or philosophy. We do appreciate, though, Jesus is God in a human body. I know people who find great hope in the idea God can relate to them in their everyday lives.
I know many people who, whether they call themselves Christian or not, appreciate things Jesus said.
It is easy for some of us to get distracted and coat Jesus in a layer of religious syrup. We think he wanted us to be nice and polite and respect other people, to say please and thank you. That is not the picture I get when I read his story.
It can be a challenge for us to see past the accumulated layers of interpretation and assumptions.
When Jesus Talks For Himself
Lots of us have opinions and feelings about Jesus. Some of them are strong ones. It can be a challenge for us to give him a chance to talk for himself.
I understand we do not have a complete, direct transcript of what Jesus said. The accounts we read in the Bible were transmitted by word of mouth and eventually written down. Each version has its own nuances and points of emphasis. It can be a challenge for us to fit different accounts together.
Consistent themes emerge even from varied accounts.
Jesus believes our actions speak louder than our words. He appears to value insightful questions more than concise answers. Again and again he asks people direct questions and prompts them to examine how they live their everyday lives.
The stories Jesus tells and the examples he gives are from experiences with which people are familiar. He does not seem to give elaborate theories or complex explanations.
It appears to be a priority of Jesus to put spiritual life and truths into language people can appreciate. He does not get caught up in the religious vernacular of his day.
What Do We Mean When We Talk About Jesus?
I think many of us talk about Jesus as a shortcut when we think about spiritual life.
We feel overwhelmed by the size and power of spiritual life and decide we do not have time to really explore it. It seems easier and takes less time when we fall back on theological language.
When we look at the picture of Jesus in our mind’s eye we think we see the same person as everyone else. Each of us, though, sees our own picture with its own, unique meaning.
We do not need to discover the final answers to all our questions. That is not the most important part. What is important is we explore and grapple with the questions we have.
Our questions are not intended to help us know everything. Each one is a gift which draws us to see our lives in new ways and remember who we are becoming.
The Jesus I know believes in the power of asking good questions. He does not use his own name to avoid exploring.
Who do we see when we talk about Jesus today?
What will we mean when we talk about Jesus this week?
[Image by biblevector]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.