Most people in our culture know the basics of the Christian story.
Jesus was born peacefully in a manger, died violently on a cross, came back unexpectedly from the dead, and somehow because of all that our sins are graciously forgiven and we can go eternally to heaven. And, oh yeah: Jesus Saves, Jesus is the Son of God, and Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.
Not everyone believes it, but almost everyone knows the story and understands they are a sinner in need of redeeming help. Thanks to Christmas, Good Friday and Easter, the majority of folks have at least a visceral attachment to Christian faith. That’s one of the great gifts of our culture: that people generally accept and understand there is room for improvement in their moral being, and they’d sincerely like to “be a better person.” The problem is that the outlandishness of the whole “Jesus Story” – being a humble servant dedicated to glorifying God – doesn’t pass the secular sanity test of “Looking out for No. 1.”
Most people see “No. 1” in the mirror, not in their faith. To paraphrase Rick Blaine in “Casablanca,” “Here’s looking at me, kid.” After all, who can be more important than “me”? Whose priorities can supersede mine? We are coached by popular society to “find ourselves” and “define ourselves” and to organize our activities around the pursuit of “being as good as I can be.” So we ask, “Who or what can help me achieve that goal?” People might answer with “Jesus” or “church” or some other religious, spiritual, or self-help term, but too often the small and mistaken goal is “me.”
Turning toward church only works when we turn toward the Cross with the goal of discovering something about Jesus. And that only works if we approach Jesus with our entire life: our heart, mind, soul, strength, personality, treasure … everything. We cannot define one part of our life in Jesus, and another part in something else.
That’s because Jesus is bigger than anything else. He is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Heb. 1:3). Jesus totally defines himself and anyone who truly follows Him. In His life, His ministry, His trial, His torture, His death and His resurrection, Jesus submitted to the will and glory of God.
If I want to be like Jesus, to get to know Jesus, that’s what I have to do.
Because the real story and basic truth of Christianity is that Jesus Christ is No. 1, and I’m not.
Walters (firstname.lastname@example.org) recommends an Easter Sunday trip to church focused on God’s love, not on one’s personal sins. Try it, you’ll like it.