I’ve met a lot of “Jesuses” in my time. They were preached and modeled for me at home, at church and at religious school. Each Jesus was a little bit different from the other Jesuses.
But when I read the Gospels, I meet yet another Jesus. One who says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Ha! You gotta be joking me.
No one ever introduced me to Him.
Baby Jesus, Meek and Mild
This is the Jesus most often preached. This Jesus is nice. He’s just nice, nice, nice, nice, nice, nice, nice! He can’t say “boo” to a goose. He never hurts anyone’s feelings. He never says “no.” He never sets a boundary. He never gets angry. He is codependence on steroids. He’s depicted as a perpetual baby (diaperless which is pretty scary) in Mary’s lap and inexplicably, always pale, sickly and Gentile. (C’mon! Jesus was Jewish, “the son of David.”)
And, supposedly, we’re supposed to model ourselves on Baby Jesus Meek and Mild. Do everything for everyone, regardless of the cost to ourselves. Never say “You did me wrong” or “Don’t you dare project onto me!” or “No” or “Sorry, I’m too tired” or “That’s your responsibility. Not mine.”
About three years ago, a cult member sat in my car and said confidently, “We know we’re not supposed to get angry. Getting angry is wrong.”
Softly, I began, “But Jesus…”
She steam-rollered on, interrupting me, rudely shutting me down in my own vehicle. (She later turned out to be a narcissist and sent me a poem so horrible I labeled it “Abusers Favorite Poem.”)
I was going to say, “But Jesus got angry. And if it’s okay for Him, then it’s okay for us because He was perfect.” What other emotion could possible inspire him to make a whip from cords and physically drive the money-changers from the Temple? And that’s when he wasn’t using scintillating logic to trap the Über-Righteous Religious Leaders of the Day in their own trickery and hypocrisy. That wasn’t very nice!
Hardly Baby Jesus Meek and Mild!
Upon doing some research into cults and the Westboro Baptist Church yesterday, I stumbled upon one of their notorious picketing signs. It was pretty broad minded. It simply said, “God Hates You.”
And just like that, it was January 2018 and I had my head in my hands. “God hates me!” I semi-screamed at my husband.
“He doesn’t hate you,” he spluttered back indignantly, even disgustedly.
Well, you coulda’ fooled me. Oh, I’m blessed beyond measure and (most) of my prayers are answered. But I never saw God as a Loving Father who would dandle me on his knee and forgive my human faults and foibles and failings. A Father who delighted in me as his creation.
No, I saw him as an Angry Father. One who enjoyed staring disapprovingly and condescendingly down yards and yards of nose to focus on my sins of commission, sins of omission, sins of thought and sins of deed. An Angry Father who did not hear the voices and prayers of anyone who wasn’t born again. That’s what my Earthly Father told me. “God doesn’t hear them if they’re not Christians.” He also told me “I believe homosexuals are demon possessed.” (I didn’t, I couldn’t, believe either of those things.)
But if that God/Jesus is true, then why did sinners flock to Him in the Gospels, hanging on his robe, his every word? They delighted to be with Him. Couldn’t get enough of Him.
Hardly an I-Hate-Everyone Jesus.
The Burdening Jesus
It’s not enough. It will never be enough. It’s not enough to care for our own families and try to keep our souls humble and devout. Oh no! In a mind-numbing collection of church clichés, we also have to be “on fire for Jesus” and “sold out to Jesus” and have “the joy of the Lord” and have utter eternal assurance that we’re going to Heaven. We have to be “filled with the Spirit” and claim “God spoke to me.” Oh yes…lest I forget…we’re supposed to have a “vision” and a “Purpose-Driven Life” (which, btw, earned Rick Warrens a net worth of $25 million.) And tithe 10% of our gross income (at least!) and “throw our bread upon the waters.”
Whatever all those clichés (and there are more!) actually mean, they add up to a very burdened, very heavy yoke in life. How much are we “sold out” to Jesus? How much is enough? What does it look like? How should it feel? If we’re even asking these questions, that must mean our hearts are not sold out enough. It keeps us muddled, circling, self-conscious with our eyes on ourselves instead of on Him.
But, He said, his yoke was easy and his burden was light. Not my words! He said it. Handel even put those words to music in the Messiah. You’ll find them warbled in concert halls worldwide each year at Christmas. The sopranos start the chorus: “His yoke is ea-ea-ea-ea-sy. His burthen. Is li-i-ight. His burthen. His burthen is light.” But you won’t find them quoted in many churches.
That Jesus wasn’t in any of the churches I attended.
This article isn’t intended to step on anyone’s toes. But it is intended to show how clergy, frequently narcissists with an agenda, preach a Jesus I cannot find in the Scripture.
I spent twenty-five years (a quarter of a century!) within church walls. My school was religious. My home was religious (make that, “cult like”). I listened to everything they said carefully, filing it away in the windmills of my mind. By the end, even the thought of church made me nauseous. I told my parents, “I need to detox.” The only, and I mean only, thing that kept me from ditching Christianity completely was my oft-quote favorite author C. S. Lewis (and my terror of Hell). Lewis was completely unlike any Christian I knew. That’s why he felt so real.
But when I read the Gospels, I find a Jesus unlike any I learned elsewhere. He’s, he’s…edgy (for lack of a better word). He’s not goody-two-shoes. He’s not nice. He doesn’t quite feel at all like I’d expect God-on-Earth to feel like, act like, talk like. His perfection is not what I’d expect God’s perfection to be like. In fact, it doesn’t seem perfect at all.
The Jesus of the Gospels is passionate. Sometimes angry. Brutally honest yet wonderfully kind. Empathetic to those who sin (and know it!) but vicious towards those who believe they are righteous. And forgiving. I don’t remember a single endless lecture, a single harangue, a single shaming. And damned smart! Brilliant, in fact.
And brave. I could not go calmly to my crucifixion. Never. Not in a million years.
Jesus is always not what you expect Him to be. He’s as unlike what church teaches us a religious person should be like as chalk is to cheese. He’s the antithesis, almost, of what you’d expect God-on-Earth to be like. Recently I wrote, “[narcissists] hold us to standards that I do not believe God Himself holds us to. That may sound like blasphemy, but I’m sticking to it. When it suits them, mankind can pretend to be more righteous than God…”
You’d expect God on Earth to be in a little huddle with the church leaders. A big ol’ love fest. Instead, they despised Him and, as far as I can tell, the feeling was mutual.
You’d expect God on Earth to have sinners trembling, groveling, pleading, begging, doing penance, apply thumb screws. Instead, they flocked to him. Followed him everywhere. Had the gall to reach out to touch Him. And he had great love and empathy for these “sheep without a shepherd.”
You’d expect him to give out religious tasks. So many prayers, so many tithes, so many acts of kindness. But He doesn’t. If I may paraphrase what he said to Martha, who was losing her flipping mind trying to be the perfect hostess (wouldn’t you if God came to lunch!?!?!?), “Martha, I love you darlin’, but si’down, shut up and listen. We’ll heat up some Campbell’s Chicken Noodle later.” Burthen. Easy. Yoke. Light. Wow!
Could it be that narcissists in the church have taught us a Jesus that simply doesn’t exist? They taught us Baby-Jesus-Meek-and-Mild and God-Hates-You-Jesus in order to have total control. They taught us The-Burdening-Jesus to keep their religious institution humming and well financed.
We know the imposters. Do we know the real Jesus?