Wednesday, September 25, 2013

On Being Different

What is it that makes Christians distinctive? Some may think this an odd question. Obviously Christians believe in Jesus. But while this is true, is it what primarily sets us apart? Jesus does not seem to think so.

Jesus raises this very issue in the teachings found in today's gospel. Some of these teachings are well known -- turn the other cheek, love your enemies, etc. -- but they have precious few practitioners. We find it much easier to "believe in Jesus," be reasonably good and moral, and do a little charity, than we do to take up the radical commands of Jesus.

There is something downright strange about the term "Christian" coming to signify little more than beliefs. The term originally implied becoming Christ-like. It expected that people would get a glimpse of Jesus by looking at us. But the image of Jesus reflected from us often looks little like the biblical Jesus.


Lately Pope Francis, the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church, has made quite a splash in the news. He's become something of a sensation, even a media darling. He has done so by calling the church to be more Christ-like, and by practicing some of what he preaches. He drives around in an 80s model Renault and lives a quite simple life. This sincerity and integrity have impressed people, both Catholics and others, which says something about how unusual it is.

I have to imagine, however, that there are many in the church hierarchy who are not happy with him. I mean no slap at the Catholic Church by that. The institutional structures and functionaries in most denominations and many if not most congregations would be less that thrilled with a leader who emulated the radical ways of Jesus too closely. "Bad for business," they might say.

Curious how most of us feel the need to domesticate Jesus, removing his more radical tendencies, presumably to make him more palatable. And yet there is more excitement and interest in the Catholic Church right now than in quite some time, all because of a pope who decided not to play that game.

No comments:

Post a Comment