(June 19, 2008)

I’ve been doing some exciting reading lately about things that make a lot of sense. The Secret Message of Jesus by Brian D. McLaren paints a wonderful picture of who Jesus really was and what it must have been like when he lived to hear his message and to see what he stood for.

Many Christians seem to have lost track of what Jesus’ message was. They forget that he was a radical – a revolutionary – wanting to change the status quo. He taught forgiveness. He taught us to love our enemies. He taught us not to be judgmental. He ate with fraudulent tax collectors, prostitutes, and the poorest of the poor. He touched untouchable lepers. He preached that love was more important than a long list of man-made laws. He spoke up against hypocrisy.

I myself have been unhappy about some of the way things in the church are, especially the stigma still attached to mental illness. Followers of Christ are in such a good position to help people who live with these illnesses. Faith is important for our mental well-being and we need our Christian friends to encourage us. This is best done with compassionate, Christ-like love by people who will take the trouble to get educated about the causes of our illness.

All too often Christians are like Job’s friends, blaming us for our disorders, telling us that we’re not right with God. Some will tell us to throw away our pills. “All you need is Jesus.” One evangelist even said that there is no such thing as mental illness. “All such problems have a spiritual basis.” They’re judgmental. They have not learned the lessons Christ taught.

Christians need to be prepared to be radicals in this world, not going along with the status quo, fighting injustice. In many ways we forget to follow the ways of Christ. We’ve forgotten what Jesus stood for. If Jesus was a revolutionary in his day, we as his followers need to be revolutionaries in our day….because there are a myriad of injustices.

In Matthew 5 Jesus preached that the kingdom of heaven is for those who:

  • realize their need for God
  • mourn
  • are gentle and lowly
  • hunger and thirst for justice
  • are merciful
  • have pure hearts
  • work for peace
  • are persecuted because they work for God.

This is the code of conduct for Christ’s disciples. How many of us follow them? How many of us have forgotten?