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jesus is the same always, he never changes - he is the same today as he was yesterday, and will be tomorrow.  while most of us would agree with that statement we need to remember, that while jesus never changes, our perception of him does - regularly.  for example, the image and perception of christ that led the crusades is not the same image and perception of christ who led the anti-slavery and equal rights movement (we seem to forget that it is not dr. martian luther king, it is the reverend dr. martian luther king, inspired by God and lead by the spirit).  so you see, jesus never changes, but the way we interact with him changes constantly.  this interaction does not limit the divinity of christ, it simply emphasis the humanity of us all.  it is through our limited and changing understanding what we bring glory to the divinity of jesus.  with that being said, how do we view a postmodern jesus?

let's not get into a "physical" appearance debate, that also changes with time - look at pictures painted in the fifties and sixties and compare it to the images of jesus today, and over time - i recently saw a picture of jesus with earrings and a tribal, very cool.  each generation changes the physical image of jesus to fit their individual tastes, so to truly get a grip of jesus in a postmodern age we need to get to the essence that defines jesus for a generation.  this will allow us to see how jesus interact with out lives today.  this goes way beyond physical appearance.


when we look into that essence, i believe there are six major areas where the postmodern understanding of jesus differs from that of a modern jesus -

  1. jesus is action, not conversation

  2. jesus is a visionary, not a dreamer

  3. jesus is a servant, not a leader

  4. jesus is compassion, not tough love

  5. jesus is personal, not private

  6. jesus is real, not mythical

jesus is action, not conversation - when we here jesus speaking to us, in a postmodern age, we here him say, "get off your butts and into the streets - minister to my people and stop planning on how to minister."  the time of talk and plan are past, it is now the time of do.  the norm in contemporary church is to talk, plan and hold committee meetings.  postmodern people believe that while you are planning the problem is getting worse.  modern people want a plan before they jump into action, postmodern people want to jump into action and develop a plan as they go along.  modern people are check book people, postmodern people are date book people.


jesus is a visionary not a dreamer - what's the difference between a visionary and a dreamer? first, a visionary see the destination in the light of day, a dreamer only dreams when they are sleeping.  jesus had a vision, a deep vision of a glorious kingdom of God - what a wonderful vision.  a vision where all people, from all backgrounds, all economic paths can come together and worship the true and living God - what a powerful vision.  another important difference between a visionary and a dreamer is this - a vision centers on others, a dream is centered on the person dreaming.  jesus had vision, not a dream.  modern people tend to dream.  they see the possibilities with them as the center, a postmodern person does not see themselves as the center - they are willing to move aside, for the glory of God.


jesus is a servant, not a leader - moderns freak out when they here that jesus is not a leader - this goes against everything they hold dear about jesus, but jesus never - never - never - never - said "i come to lead" - he said he came to serve.  it is all the rage in the contemporary/modern church to claim to be a "servant/leader" yet, interestingly enough no one claims to be a servant - they all claim to be a leader - here's a test, go to any person in the church, any person, and ask if they could direct you to the servants; now go to another and ask if they can direct you to the leaders.  postmodern people have a deep desire to be a servant, and to serve others is important - for moderns, servants are something to be bossed and controlled, for a postmodern person, a servant is someone to be emulated and respected.  if we leave out the "leader" and only call ourselves "servant" we will be right on task with what jesus is calling us to be - will you wash the feet of others in the church?


jesus is compassion, not tough love -  the concept of tough love is not a scriptural teaching, it is a human teaching with no scriptural base at all.  tough love gives us an out and allows us to disconnect with those in need.  by claiming tough love we do not mess-up our life with the baggage of other people.  but remember we are called, as mentioned earlier, to be in action.  this action calls us to get out of the church and get dirty - if we desire to pick people up, we need to extend our hands and take theirs - even if their hands are covered with mud.  a postmodern jesus calls us to to pick people up, and if we get dirty in the process jesus will be there to help.


jesus is personal, not private - the contemporary/modern church tend to see our relationship with jesus as private - it is not.  our relationship with jesus is personal, but it is not private.  you see, you and i may see jesus in different ways on a personal level, but we are still called to share that relationship with others and sharing requires we speak with others about jesus and what he means to us.  we need to share our faith in the postmodern age, if not us - who?  if not how - when?  if not here - where?


jesus is real, not mystical - if we see jesus as a mystic, he has no value in our life today.  seeing jesus as a real person, with real pain, with real hopes, with real temptations, with real emotions lets us know that we can look to him and get connected - our life has meaning, because jesus' life had meaning.


one day a man went out for a walk.  in his walk he decided to make an unexpected turn, and in doing so he fell into a deep pit.  as he struggled to pull himself out of the pit a humanist walked by and said, "man that is a deep pit - i feel sorry for you."  the man just looked, and continued to try to get out.  soon, a presbyterian came by and said, "it is your destiny to be in that pit, make the most of it and relax."  the man sat for a few moments, but soon started to try to get out.  as he did a baptist came by and said, "well, i know i would never fall into that pit."  then a methodist came by, "here are a blanket and some food, i hope they make your stay in the pit comfortable."  the man smiled and took the blanket and the food and rested for a moment - then returned to trying to get out of the pit.  soon a charismatic came by and said, "you are only in that pit because you have little faith."  soon an episcopal came by, seeing the man in the pit turned and walked away.  the man continued to try to pull himself out of the pit.  one day jesus came by, put out his hands and lifted the man out of the pit.



john o'keefe


ps - also look at "who is jesus" for more