For the longest time it was difficult for me to write publicly about Jesus. There were two reasons for this. First, I felt deeply sensitive to the many ways that those two syllables can be divisive. I have friends who cannot hear the word without leaving the room and I respect and love them. On the other hand, I have friends who are so invested in Jesus that they can barely abide sharing space with anybody who disagrees with them.
My own relationship with Jesus is intimate and profound. It is the fulcrum on which my life is balanced. Yet part of loving Jesus is understanding that he was simply a man who made contact with God. In this, he is simply one of many such people and by no means the best. To choose to follow him is a personal choice, akin to deciding who to marry or how to raise one’s children. I don’t want to hurt anybody. If Jesus isn’t right for you, then great. And I mean that. I don’t believe your value as a human being or your potential to wake up or become enlightened is contingent on your belief in Jesus.
I also don’t appreciate most of the arguments that tend to surround Jesus. And I say that as a man who is good at debate and spent a great deal of his life – both professionally and personally – arguing. But somewhere around age forty I seem to have made a decision to let conflict go. And while it’s certainly taking its time leaving, there is little doubt that I don’t have the stomach for intellectual fistacuffs that I once did. My relationship with Jesus – as helpful and meaningful as it is – is not related to forcing others to believe as I do.
In a sense, this reflects the other challenge I’ve faced as a Christian writer. And that is simply that I am painfully aware of my shortcomings. Whatever other blessings I’ve been handed in this life, one of them has been an acute recognition of the many ways in which I fall short of Christ nature. In my late teens and early twenties whole years passed in behavior and attitudes which I suspect made Jesus want to drink whiskey from the bottle. I’m Christian in the most fragile way possible. I am in almost all ways a disciple prone to stumbling. I’m the last guy you should listen to.
The thing about Jesus – the way I experience Jesus – is that he loves us and he gets us. He’s not “out there.” He’s not a superhero patiently waiting for us to get our act together and join him in some elite God squad. He is a man who saw the face of God in his brothers and sisters, realized that nothing could separate him from God, and was appointed by history to share that knowledge. When I say you shouldn’t listen to me, he laughs. He gently points out that so long as I’m honest and forthright, what’s the harm? When I say that those days and nights in Dublin must really have shocked him, he smiles patiently. If that’s the worst you’ve got . . .
And so I remain a follower of Jesus. Over the past four or five years I have begun to try and talk about what it means to me – practically, artistically, theologically – to follow him. Please hear me when I say that I don’t want to tie you up in knots. If what you read here is helpful, then please run with it. You’re only recognizing a truth that is already alive inside you. And if it’s not to your taste . . . well, maybe shake the dust of your Nikes and head on to the next site.
All of the foregoing notwithstanding, if you want to communicate with me on this subject, please feel free. I am here. I’m glad you’re here, too.