Wednesday, January 25, 2012


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.