In 2007, Dan Kimball released a book titled They Like Jesus but Not the Church. Within the paperback cover, we read that some are leaving the church because they see it as an institutional nightmare that does not act as the body it was intended to be. I liked Kimball's book because of his desire to connect people on the outside with those on the inside.
During his life, Gandhi is quoted as saying, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. They are nothing like your Christ." and more and more of my Christian friends are adopting this quote as one of their favorites. Gandhi is to be admired in the way he handled civil rights and those leaders who would seek to dominate and dictate the people through tyrannical and oppressive methods.
I bring these two things up because while on the surface, these might sound like realities we must enforce and absorb into the teaching of the Gospel, I think they are misleading. I do not believe that the "They" in Kimball's book or Gandhi himself really like Jesus the Christ. I think "They" like the diluted picture of Christ that has manifested itself in this world.
Jesus (jee' zuhs) n. - has become opinion and the opinion is very pretty with roses and rainbows.
Unfortunately, this Jesus isn't the one we read in Scripture. You see, if it is true that "They" like Jesus, they are an anomaly because even the people who lived at the time of Jesus did not like him. The people Jesus came to give Good News were quite angry at him because he expected a lot from them. They so hated and reviled him that they killed him. The way of Jesus is so counter-cultural, that it is difficult to accept him.
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. -- Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)Jesus is the one we must follow and the true Christ is not easy to accept and he calls us to a difficult life...one that may lead to death.
And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? -- Luke 9:23-25 (ESV)This is what I suspect people really reject because, like the rich man, they are happy with their life and don't really want to take up their cross to follow him. The Jesus that they want to believe in never existed. This has been the mistake from the time Jesus actually walked the earth. It was mistaken enough that even Jesus' own disciples didn't quite understand why Jesus was here. They kept waiting for the battle against flesh and blood to begin when his purpose was of eternal significance.
We are broken people and should not be ashamed that we don't get it perfectly. Our sin should cause us some shame, for that is what the law was set up to do (Rom. 3:20) but being imperfect should not. We cannot do it on our own. This is why we needed the death and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He alone is the reason we can have any hope in salvation. This is the good news.