In Search of Jesus, Part 1

I believe in a Trinitarian God I cannot see. My six year old daughter—who seems very interested in my beliefs when she’s not straightening the hair of one of her dolls—is very inquisitive and has a knack for asking me the tough questions about my faith. She’s an honest seeker, capable of challenging my deeply held theological convictions in the most innonocent ways. Honestly, there’s been a time or two when I’ve woken up as a devout believer and gone to bed as a bewildered agnostic after a bedtime conversation with my five year old. How many times can an answer like, “I don’t know,” suffice?

My daughter’s big question centers around my claim to know and love a God I can’t see, and why, if God is God, he won't show up and make an appearance. She’s been around the biblical story long enough to know that God has a history of self-disclosure. Hers is a world where seeing is believing. Mine is a world where seeing would be nice, but I’ve come to a place where I’m comfortable living between “sightings.” Clearly, she appreciates my perspective but has her own concerns about following a similar path. My assurance to her is that the majority of her doubts will be dispelled once she has a saving encounter with Jesus Christ. For her sake, I hope I’m right.

Of course, I do wonder which Jesus she’ll encounter along the way. Will it be the white, middle-class, suburban Jesus whose message is shamefully promoted as life-enhancing, a way to fine-tune an already comfortable existence? Or will it be the “Jesus-as-mascot” caricature that sullies the absolute agenda of the kingdom of God in favor of creating a “cosmic cheerleader,” a deliberately diluted and domesticated deity who blesses our passions and programs even while we’re neglecting his? I’ve met both of these Jesuses, and many more, and find them to be gross misrepresentations.

With frightening familiarity we speak of Jesus as if we know him and he knows us. And that is certainly the case for some. But others of us have just adopted Jesus, yanked him out of his first century Jewish context, and then adapted him to our current situation, making his gospel palatable and his directives optional. It’s almost as if we think Jesus was serious about what he said when he said it, but over time he’s mellowed a bit, making him far less demanding than he was two thousand years ago. Is that really Jesus or just a ruinous abridgement of "God with us," a diminished version of the real thing?