It’s a strange thing when people in a group don’t think the same way. We all may strive towards the same thing, but we tend to say things differently. It’s a lot like a group project team. Everyone has the same goal: to do well on this project. However, everyone involved has a different picture of what that looks like. For some people, they’d be happy with a C. Others are perfectionists and will be satisfied with “nothing less than an A.” Additionally, the Engineering major says the project needs to be done with order and precision. The Math major emphasizes statistical accuracy. The Psych major worries about the ethics of such a study, while the Arts major insists on an aesthetically pleasing product. What started as a unified effort is now a big mess.
That’s what it’s like being a Christian in 21st Century America.
I’d like to address the events of September 28th, when Cross Country Evangelism’s “Sin Awareness Day” came to the Kingston campus. I obliviously walked out of Pastore Hall and was greeted by shouts of anger and condescension declaring me an evil, repulsive, “sinner in need of Christ.” Wow. Okay. Even if they’re right, they sure didn’t motivate me to want to believe it! You can be dead-right about something, but if the presentation is dead-wrong, there’s no way I’ll want to believe you. I commend them for standing up for what they believe. I do not intend to slander them or their beliefs. The irony is that I believe what they said is true! But I’ve never been so horrified, insecure, and broken-hearted that a belief so crucial to my identity could be used in a way that was so divisive and hurtful. I was horrified that the same message that brought hope and belonging to my life was turned around to be discouraging and alienating. I was insecure from the campus’ bitter reaction. I wondered if the campus that was “against them being here” was against me being here as well. After all, don’t I believe in the Jesus they’re talking about? I was broken-hearted, because the Jesus that they spoke of isn’t the Jesus I know.
But I realized something. My faith and I have been misrepresented.
Their Jesus of September 28th isn’t the Jesus I know and believe in. These guys have a different view of how the ’group project’ should go, but they forgot to ask the group leader if it was the right way to go. They’re speaking with such certainty about their message, but they never looked at their sources to consider if they had the whole story. If I only spoke of when my parents reprimanded me, you’d think they were horrible people! But that’s because I left out the infinitely greater amount of times that they loved me. Just as you can’t take one characteristic from my parents lives and determine who they are, you can’t take one representation of Jesus and determine who HE is. So as a follower of Jesus, here’s my take on His identity.
The Jesus I know is relatable. He walked on this earth and understands the struggles I face. He, too, was misrepresented! He knew the temptation to lie, to cheat, to steal, to hurt, and yet he overcame that, and can sympathize with me as a result.
The Jesus I know is compassionate. He doesn’t see people for what they’ve done wrong. He sees people for what they could do right.
The Jesus I know is loving, regardless of race, gender, history, criminal record, or background. He is willing to meet you where you are and love you the way you need it- the only way that will leave you fulfilled and content.
So, my hope in writing this is to try to minimize some of the damage that may have been done. I know that the feelings that resulted can’t just go away, but consider that it was done by imperfect people, not the Jesus they say they represent.
There’s many people out there claiming to represent this Jesus. But if you really want to judge Him, go to the source. Not me, not them, not even a pastor or priest (although a good start). Sure, maybe we can help, but at the end of the day, we’re all second-hand information. If you want to judge who Jesus is, find out who HE says he is. Go to the primary source. You’ll find the real Jesus to be the same relatable, compassionate, and loving figure I know him to be. If you want to keep this conversation going, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy hunting!
Bradley Bzdyra is a student at the University of Rhode Island.