Don’t let past hurt, or disappointment with anything associated with Christians prevent you from investigating Jesus for yourself.
You have your reasons. You are not unaware of the back-story about Jesus’ life, death, etc. You’ve heard it. You have either rejected it or you just don’t care. I understand – maybe not everything – but a little, because I was once there. I was once contentedly living my life with no regard to Jesus. I will admit that it was fun for a while, but it did not lead me to a good place, but that story is for another time. For now, I want to explore some reasons you might want to take more interest in Jesus’ life – even if it doesn’t seem relevant. Or to put it more crassly, there might be some benefits that you are missing. I know I hate it when I find out about something great that I could have had, but I missed out on, just because no one shared the news with me.
First, unlike any other religious leader or very significant person most people would admire who has ever lived, Jesus made some remarkable claims about himself. His followers also made fantastic claims about who he was – and they lived in close proximity to him for three years at least. One of the most remarkable views on Jesus Christ was by James, known as the brother of Jesus (not to be confused with James, the disciple and brother of John). James starts the letter he wrote to encourage new followers of Jesus and introduces himself as “a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Now I don’t know about you, but there is no ways I’d ever refer to myself as a slave to any of my three brothers! Jesus claimed he was God and his followers backed up his claim – even someone who knew him as well as a sibling can know a person.
Actually, that’s the ultimate reason for his death at the hands of the religious leaders of his day – he committed blasphemy in their eyes by claiming to be God’s Son, or God himself.
So Jesus claimed to be God, claimed he was intimately connected with God the Father, and all who had interaction with him attest to his perfection – even his enemies admitted they couldn’t find anything he’d done wrong. Unlike popular personalities who have always existed throughout the world, no one could make any claim against Jesus or find fault with any of his actions. That is pretty amazing. Many around the world admire Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, other political figures – but no one claims that they are perfect. Everyone is well aware that they are human and sometimes their mistakes are obvious.
The complete story of Jesus, as well as some fascinating ancient prophecies predicting his life, death and a lot more is found in the Bible. Most people have heard a lot about the Bible, but many, if not most, haven’t actually explored it for themselves. The Bible is not a book; it was not written by a single author, and it was not intended to be read from the beginning through to the end, as you would with most books.
The Bible is more like a library of 66 different ancient texts, written over a period of roughly 2,000 years by 40 different authors from three continents, written in three different languages, and yet the harmony of the message is amazing. Many people have found that daily reading a portion of the Bible, and working consistently through it brings something to their lives that they have a hard time explaining. I’d suggest starting with the books that describe Jesus’ life, known by their author’s names: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Structure of the Bible
The Bible is arranged into two broad “collections” known as the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is a collection of 39 books which can also be divided into different genres of writing: The Law, Historical narrative, Poetry, and Prophets. The 27 books that make up the New Testament include four ancient accounts of the life of Jesus (the Gospels), one book detailing the early history of events after Jesus’ death (Acts), one poetic prophecy book (Revelation) and a collection of letters (Epistles) of instruction and encouragement to the early followers of Jesus by prominent leaders. For someone to loosely say “well it says in the Bible….” does not really add a lot of weight to the point they are trying to make. Each part of the Bible must be understood by when it was written, for which audience and the purpose of the communication. You don’t need to understand everything about the Bible in order to begin reading it. AND you don’t even have to believe it is 100% accurate – many of the things we read on a daily basis we don’t trust!
As you read, the Bible, it will become clear that there are very different types of writing. I encourage you to start! The Bible continues to be one of the best-selling books of all time, and is very interesting ancient reading. There are many modern English translations of the Bible available with added notes to give you some background information on the author and purpose of the different books.
Many people have shared with me specific details of how they have been hurt by a specific church, a religious institution, or a person who was known by the term ‘Christian.’ The hurt they feel has made them strongly adverse to having anything to do with church, the Bible or in many cases, God. I’m not minimizing the pain that has been caused and the deep hurt many continue to feel. Jesus himself had a great problem with the religious leaders of his day. In fact, he reserved some of his harshest criticism for those in places of authority. Getting to know Jesus is not about going to church or learning to fall in line with a bunch of rules imposed on you. It is not handing over control of your life to a group called a church that thinks they can make all your life decisions for you. Don’t let a bad past experience prevent you from getting the true facts. Try to push through your past pain and get to know Jesus himself: who he claimed to be and the promises he made to his followers.
Many people don’t feel a need to seek God or investigate exactly what he had in mind with his plan of sending Jesus. They are bored with the Christmas story, or the Easter story and have a lot more important things going on in their life than attending church with a bunch of hypocrites.
People sometimes see those who want to talk about Jesus all the time as weak or lacking backbone because they can never just decide anything for themselves, but always pull out the God card or the prayer card. They feel people should be free to make decisions and implement their own values in their lives without having to fall back on this ‘dependent on God’ mode. I share some of this frustration and agree that Christians aren’t always the best advertisement for what becoming a follower of Jesus might look like.
However, most people will admit that they can’t actually live up to the basic standards they set for themselves. They make decisions on the values they hold dearly, yet they find they cannot live them out. They make positive decisions but aren’t able to implement them, even though these positive changes are what they want and what they have decided to do, they lack the ability to fully pull them off. They miss the mark they set for themselves. This is a human condition. You don’t find animals contemplating the fact that they need to be a better parent, or cut calories, yet our world abounds with groups to help you achieve you goals whether it is to become a more peaceful parent, to stop smoking, drinking or drugs, become a better public speaker, or reduce anxiety and stress in your life.
Since we can’t even live up to our own good desires for ourselves, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to check out some of the things Jesus said, “I have come so that you might have life and life more abundantly!” John 10:10.
I’d like to give you a challenge: I dare you to spend 10 minutes a day for 30 days reading the Bible. I encourage you to share the results of your experiment. You don’t even need to buy a book. The Bible is freely available on-line. Are you ready to take the 30 day Bible reading challenge? What might prevent you from exploring Jesus?
Author: Becky Hastings, wife, mother, grandmother, passionate follower of Jesus Christ and truth seeker, especially in the areas of health and children. Facing a world quite different from the one in which I grew up, I seek to research and understand the true route to health, freedom and joyful family living!