No matter where I am with the ‘organized religion’ part of my faith, I am constantly in awe of the person of Jesus. He is without a doubt, amazing. I mean when you remove him from all the religiosity of our present day, all the cultural entrapments of ‘Churchianity’ – he still stands out as one of the most remarkable beings we have on record.
Jesus was an incredibly devout Jew, but time and again he was a rebel and a rabble rouser within his own faith. He comforted and disturbed people in that he constantly called them back to both the center and the edge of their faith and comfort zones. The center was Jesus calling people back to the simple foundation of the Jewish faith – namely the Two Great Commandments to love God with all your being and to love your neighbor as yourself. The edge was that Jesus called us to love people who are hard to love and make us uncomfortable: our enemies, those different than us, and those we deem unworthy of divine love.
The manner in which Jesus loved all people, the example we are called to follow and emulate, Jesus is affirming the worth and dignity of every human being he came into contact with: prostitutes, tax collectors (considered unpatriotic, greedy traitors), the poor and sick (to be sick was to be cursed by God) as well as the smug and seemingly righteous. Jesus did not dismiss people with categories, prejudices, or negative assumptions. He accepted people as they were, as they came to him, and he loved them.
The painful and disquieting truth is Jesus shows us how and who to love, for he loved people just as God loves all people – unconditionally, as they are, and starting at where they are.