Divine Identity Theft
Identity theft is occurring in nearly epidemic proportions according to security officials in the U.S. However, I believe that the most important Identity theft has been towards the most famous individual who ever lived: Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
In common identity theft (when someone uses your personal identification to leverage goods, equity, or even relationships), it is most often perpetrated by people that you know. Its typically a relative or a co-worker who manages to get access to your driver's license, SSN, or the like.
Unfortunately, in divine identity theft, it is often perpetrated by those who should know him best: The church. I am not suggesting that people in church are going around saying that they are Jesus. However, I am suggesting that much of the misunderstandings regarding the nature of Jesus is promoted through churches.
This is important because it is the person of Jesus that determines the course of the church. Our understanding of Jesus (Christology) impacts our function and purposes (Missiology), which in turn should shape how we organize and establish the church (Ecclesiology). Too often, our ecclesiology, including our traditions and sociocultural contexts, informs our Christology. In other words, Jesus becomes a reflection of our values as opposed to the converse. I see three contemporary illustrations of this identity theft that is active today.
1. Private Jesus: This Jesus is only concerned your personal salvation. The goal of this Jesus is to get you to heaven. Your only responsibility with this Jesus is to accept salvation. There is very little understanding of Jesus' purpose to usher in the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:15) or to impact not only the future, but our pasts and presents.
2. Prosperity Jesus: This Jesus is focused on giving you things. The goal of this Jesus is to make you comfortable. Jesus is our celestial banker in this model. Followers of Prosperity Jesus fail to understand Jesus call to disicpleship that calls for us to "deny yourself and follow me". This is a self focused model of faith.
3. Political Agenda Jesus: This Jesus is a manifestation of a political party (you chose which one depending on your personal agenda). For conservatives, he supports Gun rights despite the fact that he decries violence and revenge. For progressives, he supports actively careless sexuality despite his calls for purity. You pick the party affiliation, and there's a Jesus to fit the category.
All of this to ask you: Who are you following? Is your Jesus shaped by God-man who lived in Gaililee 2000 years ago, or is it portrayed by your socio-cultural-political projections. Until the church has the courage and boldness to follow the authentic Jesus, we will experience weakness, suspicion, and irrelevance. It is Jesus who boldly stated that "When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to me". What Jesus are we lifitng up today?
I challenge you today to rethink about your Jesus and recommit to follow the authentic Jesus for the sake of the church and for the sake of the world.
Pastor M Traylor