Tuesday, June 09, 2009



The first myth is JESUS IS OWNED BY CHRISTIANITY. Now don't get nervous about this myth. I am not bashing being a Christian or the religious system of Christianity. I want to help you consider a very basic understanding that causes lots of misunderstanding both in this country and in nations around the world. Let's examine it.

The definition of this myth is two-fold. First, this popular myth believes that Jesus was a Christian-that Jesus would be comfortable with being called a Christian and identifying exclusively with Christianity. Second, there seems to be a sub-myth on this one-that Christ was Jesus' last name. Let's quickly deal with this sub-myth. Jesus Christ is better understood as Jesus, the Christ. Jesus is His name and the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, is His title.

The damage from this myth is many-fold. FIRST-Christians believe they have a corner on the market with respect to Jesus. The by-product of believing Jesus is owned by Christianity is religious, pharisaical pride. This pride leads "Christians" to identify its culture as the right culture-the right way of life. This excludes all other cultures God created, other than the Christian culture, from following the path of God.

SECOND-If you desire to become a follower of Jesus, embracing this myth tends to distract you away from Jesus and the Kingdom. Instead of following Jesus, your focus can so easily become being a Christian or defending Christianity.

THIRD-Non-Christians believe Jesus is exclusively related to Christians and therefore they have no relationship with Him, even though Jesus is so attractive, irresistible and relevant to them.

FOURTH-Non-Christians identify Christianity with the disastrous and horrendous actions of its past-e.g. the Crusades against the Muslims and the persecution and killings of the Jews-all in the name of Christianity.

FIFTH-Non-Christians identify Christianity with the West and as they develop hate for the West, they develop hate for Christianity (and vice versa). When Christians attempt to convert people who are not Christians, they stir up such anger and hate-especially is this true in the non-Christian cultures of the world. Christians want Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims and whoever else is before them to become Christians-to be converted away from their cultures into Western Christianity. As my son-in-law said, "This is doing missionary work the hard way!" Instead of converting people away from their cultures and into Christianity, why not introduce them to Jesus and let Him do His work in their hearts. Now that's true conversion!

In debunking this myth I want to share four observations: FIRST-Jesus never used the term "Christian". The term is found three times in the New Testament. The first is in Acts 11:26: and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. This seems to be a derisive comment by those in Antioch at this point. The second occurrence is in Acts 26:28: Then Agrippa said to Paul, "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?" The third time the term "Christian" is used is by Peter in I Peter 4:16: However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

When I use the argument that Jesus never used the term "Christian", I am saying that He had something so different in mind than to offer a label to be worn or an organization to join-all to be foisted upon the cultures of the world. If Jesus were trying to change people's cultural identification, He would have actually done so. When Jesus encountered a person from another culture with other gods and traditions, He was not concerned with "converting" them away from those backgrounds. He was primarily concerned with a person's relationship and trust in Him. Take the Roman official-the one Jesus said possessed more faith than any other person in all of Israel; Jesus didn't warn him to beware of the many Roman gods nor did He urge him to join the synagogue or any other organization.

SECOND-Jesus had a better term. Most Christians love to use the ID, "believer" or "born again". What's interesting is that with a couple of exceptions "believer", "believe" and "born again" are used only by John in his Gospel. John and all of the other Gospel writers-Matthew, Mark and Luke-use the same and most prominent terminology as they quote Jesus. All five Gospels are in agreement about the terms "follower" or "follow". This is Jesus' designation of those who are in relationship with Him-followers.

Without a doubt the best use of the term "Christian" is to be a "follower of the Christ". Used in this way following Jesus retains the power of a movement. However, most take Christianity as a religion, religious system of beliefs and an organization to be joined, which kills the movement by definition and practice.

THIRD-There is nothing wrong with being a Christian or even a Western Christian, if that's your cultural background. But there is something far better and that is to be a follower of Jesus. The largest spiritual movements in the world are happening among Animists in Africa, Buddhists and Hindus in Asia, Muslims and Jews in the Middle East, atheists and agnostics in China and even Christians in the USA. This movement numbers in the millions those who do not identify themselves with Christianity or Western Christianity, but sincerely and enthusiastically call themselves followers of Jesus. They love and worship Jesus!

How can this be? Because Jesus is more preeminent than we have let Him be. He is so much greater than any Christian can ever lift up and He must be lifted up. As He is lifted up Jesus will draw all men and women to Him, because He is the most attractive, the most irresistible and the most relevant ever. If the Creator-God were to ever take on flesh and become man, God would look like Jesus.

When Paul was in Athens (Acts 17:22-31), he stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship-and this is what I am going to proclaim to you."

"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations (cultures), that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

"Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone-an image made by human design and skill. That divine being is Jesus and He must not be limited to the Christian box and culture. God set up all cultures in order for them to reach out for God and find Him."

No, Jesus is not owned by Christianity. He is the unique one, born of the Spirit of God! This Kingdom Manifesto of Jesus-the Good News-is for everyone. It is not exclusively for the Jews or the Christians. Jesus is all-inclusive. He is the ultimate answer for everyone everywhere. Jesus. Simply Jesus.



Now remember a myth is passed on so frequently that you blindly accept it as THE truth and it becomes a vital doctrine in your religious beliefs. Therefore it is, at best, a legend, a sort of spiritual fairy tale that has become a sacred belief for you and your community, yet it is really a well-intentioned falsehood or misunderstanding. For the most part, I don't think these myths we will examine were ever designed with evil purposes in mind. They have developed from one generation to another without questioning its veracity.

There is an old story that illustrates how myths originate and are passed on from generation to generation. It's about a family that always cut their turkey in half before they cooked it. This was certainly very odd by American tradition since everybody always served a whole baked turkey as the centerpiece for the Thanksgiving meal.

For many years this strange ritual went on until a child from the fourth generation decided he was going to find out why his family had such a very "strange" tradition. So he went up to his Momma and asked "why exactly do we cut the turkey across the middle whenever we cook one for Thanksgiving?"

Somewhat startled by such a sensible inquiry, the mother decided to ask her mom exactly the same question the youngest had put across: "Momma, Why 'do' we cut the turkey in half?"

Grandma for her part could only scratch her chin and reply, "to tell you the truth, I can't exactly tell why. All I know is that was how I saw my momma do it, and that's how I've done it all these years. Why don't we ask Great Grand Nanny!"

So they all huddled around the Matriarch as Grandma asked, Momma, why exactly do you always cut the thanksgiving turkey in half before you stick it in the oven?

Great Grandma sat her self up and with a look of disbelief she replied, "Did you never realize that our oven was never big enough to stick a whole turkey in? That's why I always had to cut those turkeys in two,"

Do you see how easily this happens? Now transfer this same understanding of myth development over to the world of spiritual things. Many times the myth emerges out of partial knowledge. You know there is nothing more dangerous than a person who has read only one book on a subject. From the basis of that book and that author opinions are formulated and become fact, until another person offers a different thought on the subject. I am reminded of the man who came to the conclusion about all native American Indians. He said, "All Indians walk single file, at least, the one I saw did." It's a partial perspective!

Myths also tend to be developed with a prejudiced perspective. Whereas a partial perspective is when you don't have all of the facts, the prejudiced perspective is when you don't want the facts. The facts might mess up what you already believe!

A man sat in front of his doctor, claiming that he knew that he was dead. The doctor assured him that he wasn't dead-depressed, maybe, but very much alive. Nothing would change the patient's mind on the issue. So, the doctor sent him on a research project to the medical library. The research would conclusively prove that "dead men don't bleed."

When the patient finished his research, he returned to see his doctor. The doctor asked, "What did the research say?" "Well," said the patient, "it is clear that the medical literature says that dead men don't bleed."

"Perfect!" replied the doctor. The doctor immediately went over to the patient, stuck a needle in his arm, and the man began to bleed. Without any hesitation the patient jumped up and proclaimed, "Dead men do bleed!" Now, that's a prejudiced perspective! Don't confuse me with the facts. My mind is already made up! Especially is this common within religious circles!

There is one other perspective that breeds myths. It's what I call a passive perspective. A passive perspective is when you have the facts, but don't act upon them. You are committed, but not involved in the behavior that the commitment requires. This is, by far, an epidemic in our society! Committed, but not involved! You know what to do in your marriage, but don't do it. You know what to do with your children, but don't do it. You know what to do in the midst of a conflict, but don't do it. You know what to do with your priorities, but you don't do it. It's like the kamikaze pilot who made 33 missions. He was committed, but not involved!

As we examine the person and teachings of Jesus we want to know as much as we can from Jesus, Himself. We want to examine Jesus and His teachings as objectively as possible. And, we want to examine Jesus and His teachings actively and not passively. This last approach can make the most difference. I don't want this examination of Jesus and His teachings to be just another intellectual exercise. It's one thing to know Jesus and His teachings and quite another thing altogether to do your best to follow Jesus: Follow Jesus because of His impeccable character and life. As you continue to follow Jesus, you will find His teachings to be most meaningful and fulfilling. And, if you embrace following Jesus as your lifestyle, you may discover how to relate to your Creator in a personal way.