Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Will the Real J.C. Please Stand Up?

I was recently reading about Thomas Jefferson in the book American Jesus. Shortly after becoming President of the United States, Jefferson ordered two copies of the Bible. He went through them in the evening with a razor blade in hand and cut out the sections that he believed accurately portrayed who Jesus was and the rest he tossed to the ground. He really liked Jesus' moral teachings so he kept all of those, but he felt that the miracles were probably added to the texts at a later time by swindlers and charlatans, so like any good editor he removed those. When he finished he had a much smaller book that he considered the true essence of Christianity.

When I first read that account I was utterly appalled. Then, I spent a little more time thinking about Jefferson and I came to the realization those of us who claim to be Christians are guilty of doing the same thing. Granted, most of us would not have the audacity to actually take our Bible and cut it up into pieces (with the exception of the Jesus Seminar). However, in a more subtle way we do have a tendency to pick and choose what scriptures we will allow into our lives and what scripture we will really take stock in. In a sense, we do edit the scripture as we read through certain passages and justify why they are impossible or don't apply to us and instead of wrestling with them we allow them to fall to the cutting room floor.

We, like Jefferson, tend to cut and mold our Bible to fit into our worldview, our political beliefs, and our lifestyle choices. It is way easier to dress Jesus up like us than it is for us to dress up like him, so without realizing it we allow ourselves to be deceived into thinking Jesus is just like us.

In reality we are called to do the opposite. A true follower of Christ allows the Bible to go through their life, and like a razor blade cut away all of the parts that do not conform to the life of Christ. You see, Jefferson had it wrong and often so do we. He tried to shape his Bible instead of letting the Bible shape him.

You turn things upside down,
as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!
Shall what is formed say to him who formed it,
"He did not make me"?
Can the pot say of the potter,
"He knows nothing"?
-Isaiah 29