Years ago I made a decision to become a Jesus follower. I want to endeavor to know who Jesus is personally, relationally and let that relationship inform my life. Some might call that a christian but I find that word loaded with connotations, albeit some good, but many I want to avoid. For many the term christian evokes thoughts of rule keeping, do’s and don’t, boundaries and barriers, rewards for doing good and punishment for doing bad.
Many of us have had relationships with authority that are like that. When we conform, do good and obey the rules we have favor and life is good. When we fail to conform or obey the rules that favor is removed and we are threatened with (or experience) punishment and rejection. People can and do project that image on God and define christianity in that light and as a result reject God and “his ways”. No doubt. I reject that god and those ways.
I have found that God is not at all like that. The Bible isn’t meant to be a rule book or a life manual. It is meant to be a narrative that helps us understand who Jesus is. It tells us that Jesus is the exact representation of the Father. In other words, God is like Jesus. Jesus said He did not come into the world to condemn it but to save it. Jesus was and remains a friend of sinners. He didn’t so much go around giving lectures on proper moral conduct but rather He went around loving and helping people. The only people who really received His ire were the religious people who, to maintain their privilege and power, propagated a system of unreasonable demands upon regular folk.
Jesus doesn’t come to impose His rules upon us. He isn’t about making us obey His rule to gain His favor. We already have His favor. Every one of us. Every one. Yes, that means you. To the extent the New Testament instructs us in living, it does so for our benefit. Look at it this way. If you had a child that was abusing drugs, causing themselves great harm, would you sit idly by? Of course not. You would try to rescue them from their malaise. If they resisted your efforts, spit in your face, abused you for doing so would you continue loving them and desiring to see them rescued from harm. That is what Jesus does.
Jesus isn’t here to kill our joy or rein us in. He has come to give us all life. I have found that He is the party. Isn’t interesting that Jesus performed His first miracle at a party, a wedding celebration? Isn’t it interesting that miracle served to supply wine to a party that had run dry? Wine is symbolic of joy and as He supplied an abundance of wine to that party, Jesus wants to supply an abundance of joy to our lives.
God is for us. All of us. All. God does not want to see one soul ruined but He desires all would come to a change of heart and mind and understand His true desire for every person. He is interested in real people living real lives. He desires to live our lives with us. I’m not talking about going to church. If that works for you, go for it. I’m talking about living life with the most interesting, compassionate, reasonable and loving person you could ever imagine.
Does that picture of God seem familiar to you? I sincerely hope it does. If it does not I ask you to set aside whatever notion of God you might have and reconsider your position. Maybe you’ll find what I have found, that God is like Jesus.