Jesus is not an American?

Jan 10, 2009Archive

I read an interesting blog today by author Ted Dekker entitled, The Challenge of Being Gay. It’s not about homosexuality; it’s about language and how folks label each other, particularly Christians. I wrote a response to Ted, and I’d like to share it here. First, read his post, then read below.

My response:

Maybe we should look at why the labels have become distasteful (both inside and outside the church). Part of the blame comes from distortions by others bent on disfiguring the name of Christ. And part of the blame comes from Christ followers who don’t follow Christ well. I’m one who prefers the term Christ follower. As I study the Sermon on the Mount with a group of high school girls, I’m struck at how easily we dismiss Christ’s admonitions. Do I really turn the other cheek? Do I consider it cool to be weak or meek? Am I that interested in making peace? Have I considered those who are starving and suffering in the world as more important than me?

The way is wide for those who don’t follow Christ, but the gate is narrow for those who do. My hope is that my life reflects that narrow gate in a winsome, invitational way. As I read the gospels, I’m struck at how irresistible Jesus is, how folks flock to Him, can’t get enough of Him. Why is it that Christ followers on earth don’t always have that same irresistible quality? What is it in my life that reflects the mundane? How, as an image-bearer of God, do I misrepresent Him? (Oh how I could count the ways, and I’m sure you could count my ways too).

Instead of worrying about blanket statements, I am throwing the blanket off myself, wondering what it is that is cultural about my Christianity (that I’ve wrongly assigned to the Gospel) and what is genuine. Having had the experience of living overseas and then returning to the United States, I had the unique privilege and agony of seeing just how much of my Christianity was wrapped in a red, white and blue flag. And as my eldest daughter said when we moved to France, “I am learning that Jesus is not an American.”

I believe folks who are without hope are looking for Jesus—the irresistible, sacrificial, out-of-the-box, holiness-with-skin-on Jesus. The more we as Christ followers reflect that, the more folks will see Him. (An aside: I’m thankful God is big enough and powerful enough to enact His plans despite us. For me it’s a matter of what Randy Alcorn taught me through his books: eternal perspective. Yes, God can do it all by Himself in His sufficiency, but He mysteriously allows us to be a part of His plan on earth. And how we coincide with His plan is how rewarded we’ll be in heaven for a life well-lived.)

My hope is that the labels of Christianity will be a non-issue as we genuinely seek to follow Him down surprising and hard paths.