I keep hearing that the fundamental message of Jesus was that of love and tolerance. Of course by “love and tolerance” what is meant is that Jesus affirms us as we are. His message is cast against the jerky Pharisees that were all concerned with truth and the Bible and stuff like that. Jesus taught that instead we ought to just love one another as we are.
Now don’t get me wrong. Jesus did teach love. Jesus is love. And he was also tolerant. Provided that you have the proper definition of tolerance. But is this really the central message of Jesus? I mean, if Jesus’ is preaching love and tolerance how does He say something like this:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. –Mt. 10:34-36
“Simple”, says Jesus Seminar type folks. “It’s not part of the authentic message of Jesus”. The Jesus Seminar is old news, but it’s effects have trickled down into our culture and has even infiltrated our congregations. In case you aren’t familiar, the Jesus Seminar was a group of 150 critical scholars tasked with trying to separate the Christ of history with the Christ of faith. In other words these dudes are going to tell us which part of our Bible’s we ought to believe and which ones we shouldn’t.
The Black Beads
The ones that they voted on as authentic would receive a red bead. The ones that were positively not to be accepted got a black bead. (There were pink and grey beads for the possibilities in between). Guess which sayings of Jesus were the ones that got the red beads? I’ll give you a clue, Matthew 10:34-36 didn’t make the cut. The ones that did are the ones in which Jesus speaks of love and tolerance. Which have I mentioned is part of the message of Jesus?
The problem, though, is that what emerges from the Jesus Seminar—and any similar activity where we vote on Jesus—is that what emerges is not a Jesus that demands anything from us. What emerges is a Jesus of our own creation. That’s why I’m not shocked when people say they love Jesus but not the church. Of course they do, they created him. The church—that’s another thing altogether.
This leaves me with one question for Jesus Seminar type folks. Why do you suppose they crucified Jesus? Was it because they were stuck in their religiosity and they couldn’t handle his liberal and tolerant views? So, then, did the religious leaders drum up charges of heresy and blasphemy?
Of course the Scriptures say that he was crucified for saying things like, “Before Abraham was I AM”. But those Scriptures are certainly not authentic messages of Jesus. Which leads me to another question...(so I guess I have more than one). Why in the world did the followers of Jesus propagate the message that the Jewish religious leaders made up? Why were they also killed for teaching Jesus as the Messiah the rightful King of the Jews? Why do you suppose it took some 2000 years of church history before people would actually recover the authentic message of Jesus?
Isn’t it possible that the reason why Jesus was crucified, the reason why they picked up stones to do away with Him, was that He actually claimed to be God incarnate? You see the cultural Jesus—that preaches only love and tolerance is not any different than us and therefore demands nothing of us. The biblical Jesus, on the other hand, not only gets Himself crucified but bids His followers to come and die as well. And you don’t get that by teaching a love and tolerance which exalts man and demands nothing.