On Not Liking Jesus

Posted: August 25, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Years ago a friend heard one of the challenging parables of Jesus and it so confounded him that he’s never gotten over it. No matter how much time has passed, whenever I see him he brings it up. “That parable,” he says, “is just wrong. That can’t be the way God is. It’s not fair …” And so it goes. The truth is that we don’t always like Jesus or what he says.

I’ve thought about that over the years, how the message of Jesus and, by extension, our preaching and teaching about his message, confounds and disturbs us. I don’t like it all, though I struggle to accept or apply it to my life. I fall so short of his vast vision of God and humanity that I often feel judged. That’s the point, of course, to realize the difference between who we are and could be. And Jesus had an uncanny way of exposing our little self-deceptions. We usually don’t appreciate it when someone challenges our little versions of the way things are.

So people shouldn’t feel comforted every time they hear the words of Jesus. Like me and my friend, they should, from time to time, feel disturbed. If not, if we’re not feeling discomforted some of the time, we’re probably not being faithful to the Gospel. The good news sometimes sounds bad.

Similarly, there’s a lot we don’t always get, don’t understand or comprehend. If I were always able to say, “Oh, I understand everything I find here,” I would be reading, hearing, some little children’s version of the Bible or theology or the challenge of Jesus. Truth be told, I shouldn’t get it all the time. I shouldn’t understand everything. If I do, I’m probably ingesting mother’s milk, but not adult food. And even so, my finite mind will never be able to get around the infinite part or all of the time. If I do believe that I am able to get it all the time, with my finite understanding, I’m probably not really struggling with an infinite word, but rather a weakened, diminished little version, one I think I can control.

There’s much we don’t like and much we don’t get, but that’s not a bad thing. If we liked everything and got everything it would be real cause for concern. Liking everything and getting everything is the verification that we are not encountering a mysterious and infinite God but something else, a watered down little pablum.

So go ahead and cringe when Jesus spins his God stories. And wrinkle up your face and say, “Huh?” Leave your Bible study or worship or devotional time shrugging your shoulders and shaking your head. If you understand too much and like too much it’s the sure sign you’re headed the wrong way.

  1. Lee says:

    My rambling metaphysics was getting caught in the trap of reducing experience to coherence and meaning, letting the perplexity of things disrupt the joy in their mystery. To insist that diligent thought would bring an understanding of change was to limit life to the comprehensible.
    –William Least Heat Moon 

  2. Barbara says:

    A hearty AMEN to this post!!! I’m beginning to realize that I only started maturing in my faith when I could admit I didn’t understand everything (or sometimes, anything) about God! It helps to remember the book by J.B. Phillips, Your God Is Too Small!

  3. Jeanette Ashley says:

    Tim, I agree with your blog. We don’t understand everything about God and everthing Jesus says, because HE is God and we are not!

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