This message is specifically for those who roll their eyes, drop a heavy sigh and turn the page - literally or figuratively - upon hearing or reading the name of Jesus Christ.
I was one of you.
Although I believe in God, and always have, and I believe in His son, who came to save us from sin and death, something made me flinch when someone started talking about Jesus.
Many voices over the years, some sincere, some not, and all incomplete, have tried to reach me - to reach us - with what they say is 'God's word.' They seek to package the lessons in a consumable baggies, often equating 'consumable' with 'simple.' And although God's word can be hard to fully absorb, it is not complicated.
Unfortunately, over a very long period of time, many voices have tried, or have pretended to try, to interpret God's word for us. And in so doing, have turned many, many of His people away from Him.
People are insecure by nature. They seek validation that they are on the right path. When they learn that they are not on that path, they do one of two things: (1) they repent and refocus their energies on getting back on track or; (2) they 'hate the messenger' for making them feel badly about themselves. More importantly, they don't hear the message. Or care for the One from whom the message was allegedly sent.
After they internalize their tendency to recoil, this second group grows callous toward the name of the Lord. They equate His name with the discomfort that being on a wrong track and being told about it.
But in all of this, the tragedy is that they never actually meet the real Jesus. Because if they did, they would know the love and care and patience and compassion and protection and guidance and forgiveness that surpasses anything we might imagine.
But instead of knowing the real Jesus, they know a different being, someone who judges and condemns and belittles. Someone who has disdain for us and for all that we are. Someone who has no interest in you, beyond making you feel bad about yourself. And about keeping you away from the God who loves you.
Quite the opposite, the real Jesus spent time with those who were thought of as sinners and challenged those whose hypocrisy kept the people far from God. Jesus's teaching was disarmingly simple: Love God and love one another. Done and done.
Jesus is not in favor of sin. As the perfect Son of God, he is not a sinner. But although He does not like sin, He loves all of us. And we are all sinners. You can hate the sin but you have to love the sinner. The real Jesus shows us how.
"We are all sinners." Does that make you feel badly about yourself? Did you think you were perfect? Well, you're not. But it's okay. None of us are. None of us ever were, except for the real Jesus. And He forgives us. Indeed, He went so far as to sacrifice himself (his perfect self) for all of us. He continues to pray for us all the time, day and night, and to intercede on our behalf. He continues to look out for us, care for us, comfort and protect us. And we are sinners. And He is perfect. Wow.
He does all of that for you, a sinner. And He is perfect. Remember that the next time you decide that someone is unworthy of your forgiveness. Remember that when you choose not to move on from a hurt, but revisit it daily, wallowing in anger or self-pity.
Remember that too, when you choose not to pay attention to a message about Jesus. You're reacting to a past hurt, one that is keeping you from fulfilling your destiny. That sounds dramatic, but it's true. And dramatic.
Don't let an inarticulate voice, or a self-interested hypocrite, or a con man or con woman push you away from the real Jesus.
If you get to know Him, you will love Him. And in case you didn't realize it, He already loves you.