It’s a classic question. Someone walks into your church on a Sunday morning, heads straight up the centre aisle to the pulpit and says “I’m Jesus, I have returned.” How do you know if it’s Jesus or not?
I don’t have an exact answer for that, but, given the number of times Jesus says he’ll return and also warns his followers to watch out for fakes (Mark 13:6, for example), I think it’s worth thinking about. And, besides, while we’re waiting, it could sure help with trying to figure out what it means to be a follower of Jesus. So, if you’re wondering if it’s Jesus, here’s a few things to think about, in no particular order.
1. I’m not sure that Jesus would appear in my church on a Sunday morning. Not because there aren’t wonderful, kind and loving followers of Jesus in the pews there, intentional and flawed human beings, but rather because there is. Jesus will always be found first with those most in need, the hurting, the poor, the sick and the lonely.
2. I wonder how Jesus will handle “the church.” Jesus constantly questioned institutions and structures. That’s not to say that Jesus would avoid churches, I just think Jesus is about people first.
3. If the Jesus you meet has an answer for every question you have and tells you what you should think, I think that I’d think twice about that Jesus. That’s a lot of thinking, but I think Jesus wants to guide us on our journey in life, not tell us how to walk and where to walk. Jesus wants us to think. And feel. We find our way with Jesus by our side.
4. Speaking of life, we talk about “the end times” a lot. Revelation is a hot book. But anyone who tells you that they need to bring about the end times now, in any way that causes hurt, pain or damage to others or any part of creation, is not Jesus. The end will come when it comes, we need to watch for it, not accelerate it. And remember, most importantly, the point of those stories is hope: the end of this world is the birth of a new one.
5. The good news of Jesus belongs to no particular nation, culture, tradition, society or people named Jesus. It’s about life, love and grace for all. All (underline that three times).
6. I don’t think Jesus demands blind obedience, but a thoughtful, heartfelt partnership. “Blind faith” ought to be an oxymoron. True faith demands our thoughtful minds, caring hearts and eager hands.
7. Jesus is about building community, with respect, justice and equity for all, whoever and however we are. I don’t think Jesus is interested in sameness or uniformity, but rather a unity or oneness that comes from recognizing the uniqueness of each of us, what we bring to others and how we come together.
8. That means relationships are important. I don’t think Jesus would isolate or set apart anyone. I think Jesus wants to engage the world, seeking ways to include everyone.
9. I don’t think Jesus would ever - ever, ever - use fear. One of the most important things said by the Jesus we know was “don’t be afraid,” and Jesus said it often.
10. Love. Jesus is all about love. If love isn’t at the heart of it, it’s not Jesus.
Come to think of it, you could probably just skip numbers 1-9 and just go with that last one. That’s how you know it’s Jesus: love.