“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” ~Matthew 7:21 (NRSV).
How much do we really know the Lord Jesus?
We might: have caught grasp of saving knowledge unto his name; have read our Bibles cover to cover; pray with clever perspicuity; have given away vast sums of money for God’s work; lead a ministry; or, even sponsor a child or three.
But what does all that prove? Are we better for such things and have they brought us closer to God as a result?
To understand how much we know Jesus we need to first know who he was: what characterised him as a man and, therefore, what characterises him as our Lord.
Was Jesus ‘Christian’?
It may seem a funny question, but we can learn a lot about Jesus and Christianity if we explore it.
If a non-believing person is asked to describe the character of Christians, what would they say? They might tell us that Christians are too interested in ‘getting saved’ into eternity, or judging people and situations, than they are about social justice issues.
Jesus, conversely, seemed uniquely interested in social justice issues. Out of 66 chapters in Isaiah, Jesus chose a passage on social justice for his very first reading in the synagogue (Luke 4:18). Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release for the captives, the recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.
We have to assume that Jesus was Christian—that the Lord’s personal mark has been indelibly imprinted on this faith that we claim. Therefore, we must also assume that to be Christian we ought to adopt the social justice model, likewise, as the cornerstone of our love-drenched faith.
Many Christians may deplore the thought of Jesus being a humanitarian—one concerned, passionately, with life this side of eternity. But the more we read the gospels, the more we find this humanitarian Jesus coming to the fore.
Exploring Jesus’ Humanitarianism
Almost every story in the gospels has a uniquely human feel to it. The biblical Jesus is found loving the underdog, speaking with and healing the marginalised, and associating with life’s so-called ‘scum’.
In so many ways Jesus was a ‘messy’ Lord. ‘Messy’ is not to be taken in a derogatory sense—indeed, the Son of God delved in the messiness of life. (How many of us would be comfortable mixing in the circles that Jesus routinely mixed in?)
Given that this world is a messy place, this characterised the Lord as a humanitarian.
Like the Sermon on the Mount, this is a difficult morsel for us to swallow. We want a comfortable Christianity. But the regenerate Christian (is there any other?) must feel compelled to do what Jesus did and, therefore, through it, know him.
Doctrine is important, but it isn’t everything. Tradition is important, but it isn’t everything. Experiences of the Holy Spirit’s anointing are important, but they aren’t everything. What good is it if we master these things, but do not care for the poor, the captive, the blind, or the oppressed?
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.
Acknowledgment: Rev. Tim Costello, CEO, World Vision.