An Unpopular Jesus?
FOR people like me who love Christ Jesus, it seems hard to think of him as being unpopular. Yet, as I studied the Bible recently, I realized that it did happen.
Many of Jesus' countrymen were looking for a strong leader to free their nation from oppression. At first they assumed Jesus would be their king. When it became clear, however, that Christ Jesus regarded his mission as one of spiritual--not political-- service, many became disaffected. Some even grew angry.
It seems tragic that people could reject so good a man as Christ Jesus. But I got to thinking, if we're not doing what he told us to do, aren't we rejecting the whole purpose of his life? Many of the things Jesus said make strong demands on our thinking and living. We may know in our hearts that he's right. But we may also find that it requires a major effort to get our thinking and our lives lined up, single file, behind what he said and really to put our love for good into action!
The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, speaks often of what it means to follow Christ in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. In one place she says: "More than profession is requisite for Christian demonstration. Few understand or adhere to Jesus' divine precepts for living and healing. Why? Because his precepts require the disciple to cut off the right hand and pluck out the right eye,--that is, to set aside even the most cherished beliefs and practices, to leave all
It's tempting to want a "king to solve everything. Christ Jesus, though, really shows us just the opposite. By showing us man's natural, spiritual relationship to God, Jesus' teachings help us learn to solve our own problems through prayer.
God is wholly good. And because He creates man in His own image, man's own being overflows with goodness and love reflected from God Himself. Christ Jesus knew full well that this was man. He understood so well the genuine item, the spiritual and perfect man of God's creating, that when he spoke about man, his understanding inspired and healed others.
In Jesus' own day, when people found out that his intent was actually to show them how to defeat sin in their own lives (rather that simply tell them what to do as a political leader), they often grew angry. Many wanted to hear nothing more about it! Don't we need to beware of such a tendency today? All that he said about the transformation of one's character, in the light of the new spiritual view of man, is just as true today. It is freeing. And the quest is filled with joy. But it puts strong demands on us.
What's popular to think and do is often not really satisfying or joy-producing in the long run. But when we're willing to abandon what's merely popular to follow Christ, we gain immeasurably. Mrs. Eddy assures us in Science and Health: "He who leaves all for Christ forsakes popularity and gains Christianity.
The spiritualization of our thought gives unction to the Christianization of living. Spiritualization isn't yet another mental exercise. It's the natural transforming effect of worshiping God, Spirit. God holds within Himself the real power in this spiritualization. His power, however, is unbiased in its applicability and is equally available to all.
At a time when many of his followers were rejecting the truth Christ Jesus stood for, he asked his closest disciples, "Will ye also go away? John's Gospel tells us that Peter answered Jesus, "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
When the demands explicit in Christ Jesus' teachings require more than we believe we want to give, we can be comforted to remember that "the words of eternal life are more vital and valuable than popularity could ever be.