Interactive Gospel
- Take Jesus Seriously -
by Paul Hazelden


1.   Summary

We believe that Jesus deserves to be taken seriously.

It hardly needs to be spelled out, but we believe that when considering the important questions in life, the message of Jesus Christ deserves to be taken seriously.

This is actually a far greater claim than it seems at first sight. Because Jesus was not just an ordinary religious teacher or leader. Like most religious leaders, Jesus pointed people to God. But He called God His 'Father' - 'Daddy' - an unbelievably intimate term. And He put Himself at the centre of His message. If you want to get to God, He said, you have to go through Me.

People used to think that we could ignore Jesus' teaching about Himself, and just concentrate on the moral dimension. But the attempt failed - if you take out the bits we don't like, you are left with a great spiritual Teacher who had massive crowds following him, but who never said or did anything worth noting. It doesn't make sense.

So Jesus is either a great spiritual teacher, someone Who can direct us to answers to the deepest questions of life, and is Himself in some sense the answer we are looking for, or He is a complete fraud - someone who made astounding but false claims about himself.

  1. I'll go along with that
  2. Please explain further
  3. I object to what you've said
  4. What are the alternatives?

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2.   Further Details

The old 'trichotomy' as formulated by C S Lewis still works: someone who made such outrageous claims is either insane, misleading people, or telling the truth. In short, Jesus is either mad, bad, or God.

But what are these teachings we need to take seriously? The best option is to go back to the four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - and read His teachings for yourself. In some Bibles, the words of Jesus are printed in red ink to make them stand out and to help you find them more easily. Use a modern translation - Jesus did not speak in 'thee's and 'thou's to the people around Him.

My own summary of His teaching is as follows.

He taught that an authentic human life has to be lived in relationship with God.

He taught that there are two key commandments we need to understand and to obey:

Everything else He said and did can be seen as an outworking of these basic truths.

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3.   Objections

I have yet to meet anyone who seriously believes that the teachings of Jesus should not be taken seriously.

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4.   Alternatives

The alternative that many people seek to estblish is a breaking of the trichotomy I describe above.

People want to keep Jesus as a great teacher, a wonderful spiritual leader, without accepting His claims to divine inspiration or recognising His mission to save the world. They want to maintain that He is not mad, he is not evil, and he is not God.

Of course, you can do this very easily. Simply re-write the Gospels. Many people have done this, either as individuals or in various 'reform' movements. The 'Quest for the Historic Jesus' was one of the well-known ones.

But the consequence of re-writing the Gospels is always the same. People claim to be rediscovering the authentic Jesus, but they are always starting with a set of beliefs, re-writing the Gospels to fit those beliefs, and then they 'discover' that Jesus was actually teaching what they have always believed. What a surprise.

The alternatives are endless. No two people can agree on the re-imagined Jesus. And, in any case, what is the point? Surely, if you have a set of beliefs, it is far more honest to argue for them directly, than to pretend that this is what Jesus was 'really' saying, and - gosh! - you are the first person in history to correctly understand Him.

The Jesus of the Gospels has been touching and changing the lives of individuals and communities through the centuries. None of the alternatives have achieved anything worth speaking of. It makes sense to go back to the original, and allow Him to speak. two thousand years later, His words are as relevant and as challenging as ever.

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http://hazelden.org.uk/ig/ig_take_seriously.htm was last updated 26 May 2008
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