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real jesus or dead jesus?

The religion of Jesus known as Christianity has been tragically co-opted by political forces for centuries. His true revolution – of love, restoration, grace and radical togetherness across deep divides – has been stolen, shouted down or dressed up to achieve power, fame and riches under the cover of some kind of divine authority or blessing. So many who call themselves by the same name have willingly gone right along with it, quietly turned a blind eye or been distantly ignorant to the pain and danger. 

Are we in the midst of yet another moment where powerful forces are co-opting the symbols of our Jesus to achieve their ends? Of course we are – it’s happening every day. It’s nothing new, but it feels raw and amplified. I see it on the left and the right – from the oval office to city hall and it’s bastardizing our faith each and every time. I need not point out who offends the worst. You can do that if you’d like. But I do have to call out the truth of why it’s so harmful.

Jesus didn’t die for my political cause. He died to bring reconciliation and unity of the deepest kind that we could not, and will not ever achieve on our own. The ultimate chasm we dig between ourselves and our Creator is deep. It is full of filth and sorrow and sadness and the sharp, broken shards of our dark humanity. Yet our Jesus sinks in and pulls us out, raising us to solid ground on the other side to be with him. But not just to be with God. Also to be with one another. And not just somewhere distant with gold streets. Now.

Here’s the tragedy of political jesus – he’s crafted to divide and it works. Real Jesus is the very essence of the power that can bring us together. Real Jesus is the grace and love we so desperately need. But while political jesus is a dead man who gets drug out of the tomb as a prop, Real Jesus walks out and finds us on the road, dejected.

Oh friends, if there is ever to be hope for true radical togetherness it is found in Jesus. In the God-head entering our mess and flipping our ideas upside down. He didn’t come for power – he already has it all. He didn’t come for fame – he is the Famous One. He didn’t come for riches – he owns all the things as far as you could ever see. No he came for US. All of US.

Real talk: I wish there were us and them. It’s easier to dismiss them and stick with us. But that’s not what Jesus declares. We are all in the same deep, filthy chasm, together. We would like to think we’re not. I don’t like it! But we are. And he loves us all so much that he is here, with us. He is here, in us. He is here, calling us and walking with us and asking us, “will you lay your weapons down, give up your fight for power and discover in me the only beautiful way?”

So what do we do? I can’t control how others respond to Jesus. But here’s what I’m gonna try to do. I will bow. I will submit. I will ask for forgiveness day after day after day and in humility. I will do whatever I can to find Real Jesus, and follow whatever instructions he gives. Even unto the humiliation of loving my enemies and praying for those who hate me. Even unto death. Death of my false self that seeks only what it wants. And, if asked, death to save my friends. This, Jesus said, is truly the greatest love.

I pray, Father God, it will not come to that. But if we are not willing, are we following Real Jesus, or some dead man propped up outside a tomb? One will lead you to life. The other will leave you right where you already are – dead.


May God help us,

Pastor Joel


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