Sometimes, in order to learn about something, we have to (un)learn all of the things we thought we knew about that something first.
In our pursuit of Jesus, sometimes we have to (un)learn what we thought we knew about Jesus, in order to (re)learn about the real Jesus that lay behind our presuppositions, prejudices and preconceived ideas.
Allow me to illustrate.
For many of us, our understanding of the Jesus story looks something like this:
The Jesus Story—Jesus Died for My Sins
I am a sinner.
Jesus died for my sins.
I need to ask Jesus into my heart and He will forgive my sins.
I need to avoid being contaminated by the world by secluding myself from it, while often criticizing everything within it. The earth is bad.
The earth will one day be destroyed, so caring for it is a waste if time.
I will go to heaven when I die.
I will not go to hell.
I will live in the clouds with Jesus and sing all day long, while everyone else will burn forever in eternal conscious torment.
For many people, this is what the Jesus story is all about—the only reason why Jesus came.
The way we read and understand the Jesus story requires revision.
Not the actual story of Jesus as we read it in the Gospel accounts, but our interpretation, understanding and application of the story.
This is what the Jesus story really looks like:
The Jesus Story—a King and His Kingdom
God is love.
By and for love, God created all things, including human beings.
Human beings are image bearers—created in the image of God.
God desired that people would love Him freely in return. This required freedom. Love always requires freedom.
Genuine human freedom created risk—human beings could choose to serve or not to serve God.
Some chose not to serve.
Sin—living without God—came to be.
God set a plan in motion to turn the whole thing around—from the ground up.
God chose to work through Israel and its people to bring about a restoration plan for the entire creation.
Israel’s story pointed toward a promised Messiah who would inaugurate God’s kingdom dream.
Israel’s story found its fulfillment and culmination in Jesus, God’s Messiah-King.
Jesus demonstrated, in both word and deed, that the long-awaited kingdom had come in Him—in part.
But, the King and His kingdom didn’t meet our expectations.
His kingdom was open to everyone.
The poor, lonely, oppressed and ostracized were welcomed in. This was something new.
King Jesus showed us what God was like and what we as humans could be like.