I call myself a Christian, a term that literally means “little Christ”. That designation was originally used as a derogatory term directed at the early followers of Jesus. I suppose it was kind of like calling someone a “wannabe”. The term that the first disciples of Jesus used for themselves was “followers of the Way”. They were mostly Jews who believed that the Messiah had come at last and certainly weren’t looking to start a new religion. It is more likely they were interested in transforming their lives and the world around them in the way Jesus did. In the gospel of John it’s said that Jesus came defined by the twin characteristics of Truth and Grace. Maybe the followers of the Way simply wanted to have those two things define them as well. There are many, many times I wish those two characteristics more closely defined the world-wide Christian church. There are many more times I wish those two characteristics more closely defined me.
I love Jesus. Let me make that clear from the early going. But my love of Jesus is not hero worship. I have heroes, like most of us do. But I am well aware of the flaws and shortcomings of my heroes. In fact, that is something I really enjoy about my heroes: They were exceptional in many areas yet horribly unexceptional in others. They are my heroes because they inspire me in two directions, as it were; an inspiration to achieve something great and an inspiration to realize that I’ll fail miserably at times in the striving to do so. I don’t look at Jesus in this way. Instead, I see him as existing beyond my aspirations. I cannot totally be like Jesus, not in a thousand lifetimes. But I can keep my eye fixed on him. I can continually hold him at the center of all that I am. I can align my priorities, shape my abilities, craft my person around him. I can’t do this with any one of my heroes, no matter how outstanding their accomplishments. I can only do this with the one who is totally human but also totally God. He gives me my greatest example to aspire to at the same time that he exists somewhere beyond my reach; not in a far-off way, however, but in a way that gives me peace; in a way that reminds me I am ultimately not in charge of my life.
The above is why Jesus can never be my co-pilot. Really, I’m not flying this thing called “my life”. If I were, I would live in perpetual fear of crashing the bloody thing into the ground, nose first. Let’s face it: No matter how much we try to improve or become better at this or more educated at that, we have the incredible ability to foul up our lives in short order. To me, faith in Jesus means giving him the controls. It isn’t even a case of the bumper sticker that says, “If Jesus is your co-pilot, switch seats”; no, in fact that whole analogy doesn’t do the trick anyway. I don’t see myself in some metaphysical cockpit with Jesus, navigating the crosswinds of life. Instead, I see myself turning over control of my life completely to him and thereby releasing fear, anxiety, and the thought that I can keep myself from breaking up into tiny pieces. If he’s truly human, he gets me totally. If he’s truly God, he totally can handle anything.
I love Jesus, as I’ve already made clear, but I am not “in love” with him. There is a disturbing trend in contemporary Christian worship music to write and sing songs with a definite romantic air about them. It is as if the songwriter originally wrote a song with the word “Baby” in it a few times but wanted to spiritualize-it-up a bit so he changed the word to “Jesus”. The Christian Romantic Power Ballad may be a genre in and of itself, to tell you the truth. Sorry, my fellow followers, but that is not the way I feel or the way I see my connection with Jesus. I am in love with my wife. She is my romantic partner, my life partner, my advocate and friend. I have no one else in my life to which that kind of love is directed. We share an intimacy with each other that we reserve for only each other. I cannot and will not put my love for Jesus in the same category. The idea of romantic love just doesn’t fit my relationship with Jesus. On one level the idea is just plain ridiculous but on another level it doesn’t work because my love for him fits in its own special category. There is no one else in my life that I have that kind of love for and there never will be. It is not the love of friendship or family or parents or sports team or chocolate or country or anything else. I realize that the songwriters of those ballads are trying to convey a deep, deep love of Jesus but it is just plain inappropriate and inaccurate. How ridiculous would it be to state that you are “in love” with your son or daughter (no matter how deep that love is) or “in love” with chocolate (no matter how close to truth that may be for you)?
I love Jesus like I love no one else. This is totally appropriate and accurate because he is like no one else. He is not my hero, he is not my co-pilot. He is, however, my Lord. That is, he is the one and only one I owe my all and all to who is over all and in all and above all. Get it, y’all?
I love Jesus. I’ll put that down in triplicate so as to make it all biblical-sounding. I follow him with my whole heart and my whole life because there is no one else in the world completely worthy of all of that from me. He became human for me and you. He gave his life for me and you so that we can be closer to God than is humanly possible. He came back to life again to assure us that life defines God’s creation, not death. He is the one and only. He is Jesus.
Happy Easter time to you from me. Peace.