The Jesus Life is not the American Life!

by Stephen W. SmithThe Jesus Life is not the American life.  Perhaps every people group, in trying to understand God and the truth of the Scriptures might ere in making Jesus apart of their own culture. It’s not just Americans who do this. Recently when travelling to Ethiopia, I discovered some artwork drawn by Ethiopians showing their version of “The Last Supper.” Jesus, along with all twelve of the disciples were Ethiopian, bronzed skin with distinct Ethiopian facial features. The single loaf of flat bread was placed on a brightly woven and multi-colored flat basket, not the silver or gold trays I was use to seeing as a Southern Baptist boy raised in North Carolina. Seeing Jesus as a dark skin man, made me stop and think. Sometimes, thinking is good for us, you know.Re-Thinking JesusLet's face it. It's hard to re-think Jesus; to let Jesus return to who he really was; be the man God made him to be. Perhaps we've made Jesus into our own image; made him fit a culture that isn't really him.  This is how many missionaries got into trouble by exporting their American and European ways--their music--their customs--their lifestyles and called it the Jesus way which would lead the heathen to the Jesus life--they hoped. There are countless sad stories about this evangelism of culture in the name of sharing the Good News.Every culture around the world may import and export their own values, rituals and traditions—their way of doing life and faith into a blended, homogenized view of how Jesus looks, acts and lived. Christian art, down through the ages has typically viewed Jesus as a white man, with long, straight dark hair. He looks a lot like John, my editor. when I spend time with my editor, it's like spending time with JEsus cause John has the right hair; right demeanor; the right everything in many ways. But John is not Jesus. My mind has formed a trench where I have made up an image of what I think Jesus looked like and probably acted like but how do I know the Jesus that really live; that really taught; that really died and rose again offering me life?As we have been reminded here, Jesus was not a North American or European. He was a Jew. He would have had a distinct Jewish look, making him look normal, ordinary and usual. His Jewishness would have permeated in everything he did: customs, food, rituals and traditions.  Jesus would not have celebrated the American Easter nor would he have opened gifts at Christmas. He would not recognize Santa Claus, Rudolph and its doubtful he would have ever been ‘dreamin’ of a white Christmas.’If I am to find the Jesus life, I must first find the Jesus who really lived. I  need to re-think Jesus from my American, German or Spanish ways. Only then can I have my best shot at living the Jesus Life--which is simply not the American life nor does the Jesus life have anything to do with the American dream or even the American constitution. Jesus preceded it all. Jesus was before Abraham Lincoln, before George Washington and before Christopher Columbus. I need, no, we need to go all the way back to find the Jesus who really was so that we can hear the Jesus who really has a message for us today--not just for the Jews in his own space and time in the first century but for right here, right now and in the right way.I'm afraid we have super-sized our image of Jesus to make him into something he is not. In doing so, we have perhaps cut his tongue out so that we can't hear his words penetrating into a sex obsessed, money driven, church worshipping--not God worshipping community of followers. Oh, we need such help these days. May the help come before it's too late. I need the Jesus life. How about you?To be continued.... I'd welcome your comments!