I’m fascinated by the amount of posts I read by people calling themselves followers of Jesus. As I scan through various blogs from all corners of the Christian tradition I’m increasingly finding people wanting to attribute such a title to themselves. It has a nice ring to it – ‘Follower of Jesus’ in fact I described myself the exact same way when I filled in the ‘religion’ category on my Facebook profile. Are you a Christian? No, I’m a follower of Jesus – it sounds awfully ecumenical, tolerant and free from so many tags and labels that so many of us as younger evangelicals wish to be rid of. Yet in many circles it seems to be taking on a life of its own – a life that may, in reality, be pointing away from the Jesus it claims allegiance too.
When I probe behind the phrase on so many blogs (yes I know I’m being mystical about which specific blogs and posts I’m referring to but I’d rather keep it that way because it has been a general impression of a number of blogs rather than one aimed at a specific post or blog) I discover something that is rather disturbing. It is disturbing by its omissions rather than by what it affirms. Usually these posts speak about Christ’s calls to uplift the poor, look after the marginalized, love one’s enemies, turn the other cheek etc. etc. And at this point I’m loving it and rejoicing in the supreme moral vision of our Lord Jesus that extends to so many of our current issues in this broken world. It’s affirmation and cheering on all the way from my point of view and one finishes such a post feeling convicted to go out into the world and tackle contemporary issues as a follower of Jesus. But step back and take a closer look – what’s missing? When I step back what I don’t often see is a cross, I don’t see nail pierced hands, I don’t see a thorn scraped brow. Ultimately I don’t see the glorious substitution of Christ in my place whereby I can truly call myself a follower of Jesus – because he has purchased me with his very own blood. Rather I see an ethical Jesus, a Jesus who knows right from wrong but has no way to deal with a problem that stretches so much deeper than right or wrong behaviour. I see a moral first century Rabbi inspiring people to be more moral – and it’s deeply disturbing.
A Jesus without a cross is a Jesus that will not transform or cause anyone to benefit from his amazing moral vision. My deepest fear is that people who pursue this type of Jesus will be found one day to not be a follower of Jesus at all – and that would be tragic.