This piece was originally posted here on The Good Men Project where it received over 13K shares on Facebook.
In honor of Easter Sunday, let’s set the record straight on 10 things Jesus did not do and was not:
1. Jesus did not come to set up a new religion and rule system to make people feel bad about themselves.
In fact, Jesus continually challenged the religious institutions. Jesus set up a new reality, the Kingdom of God, and the kingdom is all about love, community and restoration with God…not religion. Religion has a way of separating us from God, Jesus is interested in reconciling our picture of and connection to God. If you’ve found church (and some churches are like this) to be a place of rules and religion, Jesus wouldn’t like it either.
2. Jesus did not say much about homosexuality, dating, or sex.
The church in the last century has talked a lot about dating, sex, and homosexuality. Sure sexuality is a very important topic and part of each one of us. The Bible does talk about sexual ethics, but Bible is not as explicit as many christians think when it comes to details of the do’s and don’ts. The truth is, modern christianity has created a sexual religion of rules and interpretations of the vague (but strong) sexual ethics found in the Bible. The Bible isn’t co-signing your bad behavior, but we find a bit more grey area than some would like to admit or believe. We are charged with looking at what we do have in scripture and interpreting them into our modern culture and context. The things the New Testament is crystal clear about: be committed to one person, love the other men and women in your life like brothers and sisters…not like hundreds of lovers, don’t cheat on your husband/wife, don’t molest children, don’t rape each other, don’t use people for your own pleasure…the things Paul and Jesus were talking about are actually things that our mass culture agrees with. Don’t use people, treat them with respect. Sex is a bonding soul connection, and you don’t want to connect your soul to 1000s of people, so be discerning. The rest is interpretation. Interpretation doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it just means it’s up to us to carefully look at.
3. Jesus did not come to make us rich.
The prosperity gospel has been gaining traction again in the last several years. I suppose it makes sense in a down economy that the theological culture shifts towards God as financial savior. It’s not new, but it’s also not true. Jesus isn’t Santa Claus. Jesus is a restorer, savior, friend, ally, care-taker, truth-teller, and the truth is…he doesn’t hand out Range Rovers and mansions as good behavior prizes. If you think this is the gospel, you’ve totally 100% missed the boat. You might get a Range Rover. You might get to live in a mansion. That’s not the point. The point is, Jesus didn’t set up a good behavior-merit system, but a forgiveness-grace system. God does provide. God does reward. I’m not saying he doesn’t— I just don’t expect God to be Santa Claus because that means the poor didn’t work hard enough and someone else did or something, and that’s just the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.
4. Jesus was not just a nice guy who didn’t judge.
Have you heard the story of Jesus in the temple? He turned the tables over and was pretty pissed off because the religious people were manipulating what was sacred. Jesus had strong words to say. He had no patience for injustice, and he called a spade a spade. You see, to have mercy…you have to have justice…and that means there is right and a wrong. Jesus wasn’t afraid to bring light into dark spaces and call something bad and something else good. For example: oppressing people=bad, loving each other=good. Next time you hear someone say “Jesus didn’t judge” think again. What Jesus asked you not to do was to judge the people around you before you took care of your own side of the street. Over and over, he calls us to self-examine and do the soul-tending work of filling ourselves up with more love and light rather than careless, hurtful, sin.
Jesus turns cultural norms and beliefs on their head and begins a movement with men and women.
5. Jesus was not best friends with perfect religious people.
Jesus had dinner with Zaccheaus. He was the worst. The “I’m-a-really-good-person” people were frustrated. They thought they’d earned a dinner meeting with Jesus, surely, more than this “loser.” Jesus intentionally connected with the people society had turned their back on and called outcasts. He was overturning the whole system of rules and cultural mandates…and this is one key reason he was really making people mad. What systems do you think need some backwards thinking today? Where would Jesus turn tables over in our lives?
6. Jesus did not hunt for easter eggs.
Ha. You knew this already. I just thought it was a fun one throw in to mix it up. Easter eggs are fun, but they weren’t a tradition at the Last Supper. While some will point to its origin in a pagan practice many centuries ago, I think this redemptive celebration/holiday is perfectly capable of restoring the meaning of eggs. Eggs are a conduit of new life bursting forth into the world. As Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is at hand!” and it is. Eternal life actually starts now, bursting forth living this loving, gracious, truthful, paradigm-shifting way is what followers of Jesus are to live into, not wait for.
7. Jesus did not tell women they were less than men.
Women weren’t trusted to be eyewitnesses in court because the culture had deemed women as too unreliable. As we read the Easter story in the Bible, you’ll see that women were the first to hear the news and share it with the others. Here again, Jesus turns cultural norms and beliefs on their head and begins a movement with men and women. The restoration of all humans means that men and women are all valuable.
8. Jesus did not like white people more than brown people.
The modern christian missionary movement often has us picturing white people going to places where there are brown or black people in order to fix them and tell them that the way they are living is all wrong and needs to change. The truth is, Jesus was a brown man who started a movement to unite people of all races, creeds, socio economic status, and gender. Love unites and restores humanity. Jesus came to love and restore a human tribe.
9. Jesus is not the school principal on the playground or cop on the freeway.
Jesus did talk about right and wrong…but he didn’t come to set up rules to make us feel worthless. He lived life in a way that came to let us know that no matter what we do, we can not cause God to love us more or less. God’s love does not rely upon our behavior. God’s love is unconditional. God is not a cosmic cop waiting to see you make a mistake so He can write you a ticket. God is with you in your life, helping you, whispering love and help and care over your days.
10. Jesus does not say that you’re totally worthless.
Did someone tell you you’re not good enough? Did you begin believing that you would have to be really good in order to be loved? It happens to most of us. This “do enough good things and you’ll earn someone’s love” is the opposite of Easter. Easter is this message: “No matter what I do, I will never earn reconnection with God, so God has made the reconnection and restoration happen for me.” The truth is, you’re loved, you’re seen, you’re not worthless. You’re valuable. You’re precious. Easter is about making sure you know that.
There’s a verse after the famous John 3:16 that gets lost a lot of the time, and I think it’s just as important:
John 3:17 “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
Easter is about restoration, and Jesus came to tell us that God wants to restore each of us and reconnect us to the divine relationship we were created for.