i noticed something today. when jesus is chatting with nicodemus about being ‘born again’*, he doesn’t tell nicodemus that he needs to be born again into christianity or buddhism or islam or any other faith tradition. it was an areligious conversation. in fact, jesus never prerequisites any of his invitations into a certain religious framework. he just invites them to follow. to be a part of this new way of living. and he believed they all could do it. and that it didn’t matter. so, i think this is why its important to keep in mind that when we claim our ‘faith’ as the only faith that jesus was about, we create jesus through our religious worldview. we also go against the very grain that jesus spent his whole time being against.
in fact, in one place the disciples are freaking out because there are people using the jesus name but who aren’t following them, and jesus essentially responds by saying ‘leave them alone. if they are for us then let them be for us’. i think this is where it becomes even more important to understand that the person of jesus is very different from a faith tradition. he isn’t synonymous with them. this might have been the error of the early church, to claim/colonize jesus as a cheerleader/mascot for one religious worldview.
some might think i am being universalist here, i would hope if you think that, that you would re-read this again. i am saying we need jesus divorced from christianity. that we need jesus set free from the prisons and chains of our assumptions. maybe we can come to see the movement of jesus as an all-inclusive party that everyone gets to come and dance and experience this new inaugaration of hope and love.
paul himself also added his perspective on the matter by attacking those that were hyper-orthodox followers of judaims who were trying to force certain religious practices on those weren’t ‘part of the fold’. paul was very adament that God and Jesus were in all and through all. That all not just some of humanity, but all of humanity could be a part of this movement of jesus.
*born again isn’t insider language or a way to tell who’s in or who’s out. it was more like jesus was inviting nicodemus to unlearn everything, be like a child, rediscover his innocence and birth new ideas about god and let go of the ones he is clinging to and begin to see the god and the world with new eyes — much like a baby. (i think we all could learn from this, especially me!)