Is Jesus an American? podcast notes
This is the second time we talked about superhero’s on the podcast. This just secures the fact that we are very simple people. Trust me this will make sense in a minute. This time I want to start with super hero mantras. Great statements from great super hero’s. There is a point to this. Just bear with me.
Super hero mantras
With great power comes great responsibility. Spider-Man. Actually Uncle Ben said that.
“Life doesn’t give us purpose. We give life purpose.” The Flash
“EVERYTHING DOESN’T HAVE TO BE ABOUT FEAR. THERE’S ROOM IN OUR LINE OF WORK FOR HOPE, TOO.” —BATGIRL
He fights for Truth, Justice and the American Way. Superman
This is the most famous Superhero purpose statement of all time. I want to compare that statement made by that superhero to the person who I would consider the greatest superhero. Jesus
So I belief Superman’s mantra is the best of all the superhero call signs. But here’s my thought and the purpose of this podcast. Would Jesus back this statement. Does Jesus fight for truth justice and the American way?
Would Jesus fight for the American Way?
The first issue we have here is to define what the American way is. There are some obvious answers to that question. The American way is democracy. Capitalism could also be included in that discussion. “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Those would be the most obvious. I had a couple of other ideas that I think represent the American way. See if you can relate to any of these.
The 44 ounce Super Big Gulp. Seems to say America to me.
IHOP all you can eat pancakes fit in there.
The five dollar cup of coffee says America to me.
I emailed a friend who’s the author of a humor column and this is what he came up with
People with expensive seats holding up their phones to record crummy videos of concerts
Any action movie starring the Rock as a scientist,
Snap into a Slim Jim
Flaming Hot Cheetos
McDonalds extra value meal
Reality TV including but not limited to American Idol, America’s Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Toddlers in Tiaras and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.
How would Jesus be cool with the American way?
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Galatians 5:1
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. I Corinthians 10:23
All men were created equal
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
What are some American ways that Jesus would not be as in favor of?
There are some good words to describe the American way. Freedom. Democracy. Opportunity. Those are good. There is another that I think more accurately describes the American way. You’d at least have to include this word in the description. It’s more. The search for more. More money, more sex, more clothes, more likes, more food, more flavors, more ounces.
There are a couple of statements that Jesus makes that let us know that his goal is not pursuit of the American way.
Be on your guard. against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
I think most of us would agree with this statement and would tell other people that our life doesn’t consist of the abundance of our possessions. I would also say that most of us continue to add possessions and thanks to Amazon Prime we get our possessions in 2 days without paying for shipping. I would also guess that most of us give away more clothes than most of the people in the rest of the world have. Jesus also said this
I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Matthew 6:25
Let’s get real. How much of our life has become about what we eat, what we drink, what we wear. We love good food. We Yelp new restaurants. We never miss a meal. Then when that doesn’t go the way we want it we spend even more money on Nutrisystem or Weightwatchers to lose the weight.
A teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Matthew 8:19,20
1) Jesus was certainly not into more.
Before we move on let me challenge you with a question. How often is your life about more?
Has your life become focused on your next promotion?
Are your goals centered around growing your bank account?
When it comes to your home are you never quite satisfied with it’s condition? Is there always something more you need to do?
Are you content with who your children are or are you always pressing them for more?
2) Jesus didn’t fight for truth, he embodied it
Let me read you a controversial statement that Jesus made.
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
There are a lot of people who have a hard time with this statement. It sounds cocky. It seems very limiting. Jesus is saying “I’m the way. I’m the truth. No one comes to the father but by me.” It’s not Mohammed. Not Confucius. Not Mary. Not Buddha. Spirituality is a one way street. It all goes through me.
Let me tell you why this statement is controversial and how people often miss the point. People like to think that there are many ways to find God. You can be Jewish or Muslim or Jehovah’s Witness. That all these different religions are all saying the same thing and pointing to the same God. I had one person describe this concept like different learning styles. We all learn differently so God approaches us with different styles.
Here’s how that logic breaks down. The different learning styles idea makes sense if what is being taught is the same. But it clearly is not.
Islam denies that Jesus is the son of God and that he didn’t die on the cross. Hindus believe that you have to earn your way to heaven and you do that by being reincarnated over and over and over. Buddhists don’t even believe in God. Judaism denies Jesus altogether. Doesn’t sound like God is saying the same thing to me. If the same God is sending out all those different learning styles than he has multiple personality disorder.
I know this sounds narrow but there are not many ways to God. Jesus is the way the truth and the life. Jesus is the only way because he was the only one to make that sacrifice.
Honda Ruckus. Only one way to get to Coronado. Go down the strand. It’s about an hour and a half. Either that or risk you life and a ticket in that bridge.
When Jesus is saying that he is the way, what he is saying is that he is making a way. That there is a great distance between God and us.
Now let’s get to the superman part of this verse. I don’t believe Jesus fought for truth. Jesus simply embodied the truth. Everything he said was truth. Every word out of his mouth pointed to God. Every story he told brought us closer to knowing what God was about. Jesus is the truth. But he doesn’t fight for it. Jesus didn’t make people believe in him. In reality Jesus fought for choice.
Truth will win out. William Shakespeare
Jesus didn’t have to prove that what he was saying is truth. The world will prove it to be true. The bible tells us that lying is bad. Why does it say that? Because if you are a liar it will cost you your relationships and it will hurt your reputation and lying is ultimately bad for business. But Jesus didn’t have to yell at people to convince them not to lie. Life proves it. We’ve all seen it.
Here’s why this concept is important to me. I don’t have to fight everyone around me to prove that my way of living is right. Life will prove it out.
Let me give you one more way that Jesus doesn’t live up to the superman mantra.
3) Jesus didn’t fight for justice
It seems like this is a no brainer for a superhero. You fight for justice. You fight against injustice in the world. You fight against Loki and Magneto and Lex Luthor and Two Face and Dr. Octopus and all the evil they represent.
First off let me tell you something about justice. God is a God of justice. He loves good and hates evil. Justice is in God’s character. That word is used over 130 times in the bible and when God talks about justice he’s not messing around.
Psalm 11:7 For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face.
Exodus 23:6 “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits.
Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow
God wants us to fight injustice.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson. Let me tell you one quick story from this book.
Bryan is a Harvard trained lawyer who fights for those treated unjustly by our court system in Alabama. One night he got a phone call from a older woman who started with “He’s just a little boy.” Her grandson had been taken into custody for murder. He was only 14 years old. His name is Charlie. Years ago Charlie’s mom invited her boyfriend, George, to come live with them. George turned out to be an alcoholic and abusive. George spent years physically and emotionally abusing Charlie and his mother. One night they were in the kitchen and an argument started and it ended when George punched her hard in the face. Charlie was standing behind his mother when it happened and saw her head slam against the metal kitchen counter as she fell. George went to the bedroom to sleep it off and Charlie was left to tend to his mother. Blood poured from an ugly cut on the back of Charlie’s mom’s head and he tried frantically to stop the bleeding. He sat in the middle of the kitchen floor covered in his mother’s blood when his nose started to bleed. Charlie knew the only hope of keeping his mother alive was to call 911. Only problem was, the phone was in the bedroom next to George. When Charlie saw George, rage started to build inside of him so instead of grabbing the phone, he grabbed George’s gun from his dresser drawer and shot and killed George. Just then he heard a sound from his mother and he called 911 and sat with his mother until they came.
Charlie was 14 years old, but the police didn’t put him in a cell in juvenile hall, they put him in a prison cell with other inmates. For three nights. When Bryan was finally able to call on Charlie this is what Charlie said. “There were three men who hurt me on the first night. They made me do things.”Tears were streaming down his face. “They came back the next night and hurt me a lot.” “There were so many last night. I don’t know how many but they hurt me a lot.” Bryan left that cell and found an overweight middle aged sheriff and said “Who is responsible for this? How could we ever allow this?” The sheriff listened with a distracted look on his face but finally agreed to move him to a single cell. He was then moved to a juvenile facility.
Injustice should make us angry. It should turn our stomachs.
So it would seem that Jesus and superman have this in common. The fight for justice. But here is the crazy thing. Jesus didn’t fight for justice.
Never was someone more falsely accused. Jesus healed thousands, loved greatly, spoke kindly, forgave freely, and still he was convicted. He was beaten. He was whipped. He was humiliated. Then he was crucified. Jesus never once fought for justice.
Bryan Stephenson writes this
“At a talk I gave at a church months later, I spoke about Charlie and the plight of incarcerated children. Afterward, an older married couple approached me and insisted that they had to help Charlie. I tried to dissuade these kind people from thinking they could do anything, but I gave them my card and told them they could call me. I didn’t expect to hear from them, but within days they called, and they were persistent. We eventually agreed that they would write a letter to Charlie and send it to me to pass on to him. When I received the letter weeks later, I read it. It was remarkable. Mr. and Mrs. Jennings were a white couple in their mid-seventies from a small community northeast of Birmingham. They were kind and generous people who were active in their local United Methodist church. They never missed a Sunday service and were especially drawn to children in crisis. Their one and only grandchild, whom they had helped raise, had committed suicide when he was a teenager, and they had never stopped grieving for him. They explained in their letter that they wanted to use the money they’d saved for their grandson to help Charlie.
Eventually, the Jenningses met Charlie at the juvenile detention facility. They later told me that they “loved him instantly.” Charlie’s grandmother had died a few months after she first called me, and his mother was still struggling after the tragedy of the shooting and Charlie’s incarceration. Charlie had been apprehensive about meeting with the Jenningses because he thought they wouldn’t like him, but he told me after they left how much they seemed to care about him and how comforting that was. The Jenningses became his family. The Jenningses helped Charlie get his general equivalency degree in detention and insisted on financing his college education. They were there, along with his mother, to take him home when he was released.” ― Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
This is what God calls us to do. He didn’t fight for justice so we could receive justice and then share that same compassion with people around us.