So every morning throughout the week I take our three older kids to school just a few blocks from our house, and some days I walk inside with them, to check things out and help them get settled, and last week when I did this, on the way out, I was having this conversation with a fellow parent.
And as we were talking about our children, the topic shifted to how many children we have, and then the topic of adoption, and then this parent commented that her pastor in the Episcopal Church is also seeking to adopt. And then the conversation moved a little more, because conversations tend to do that, and we started talking about Christianity. She knew I was a pastor, and I had told her I was an Evangelical, from a Baptist heritage and all that. She told me she was Episcopalian, and so I commented:
Hey, I enjoy reading from different perspectives, and I have read a lot of theologians from the Anglican Church. [Now I was thinking mainly about Puritans from like 400 years ago, but they’re related.]
She said she was glad I read from different perspectives and then she proceeded to tell me that Jesus and Buddha were a lot alike. She had read this book, and she was telling me about it, how they were close to the same time period, and how they taught the same things — stuff like that.
And internally, as the conversation had been moving along, when this happened it was like the sound of screeching breaks in my head.
Because here’s the thing: Jesus is not like Buddha and they didn’t teach the same things. No other religious figure in the history of the world is like Jesus, and no one said the kind of things that Jesus said. Jesus was not trans-religious, as he was being described in this conversation. So, I said that.
I just said, “No. Jesus is very different from everyone else. Because Jesus is God, and he claimed to be God all throughout the Gospels. No one else ever said and did the things Jesus said and did.”
The conversation sputtered on a little more, and then we were both off to our own work. But at the end this parent referred to me, kindly, as a “Jesus-only” guy, which is true. I had been outed. And my exhortation this morning: I want you to be outed, too.
Sometimes I think we can feel a little tension between how clearly we identify with Jesus, and then the worry of burning bridges for future religious conversation. That’s how it can feel: If I am too explicit here, will I have another chance to talk about Jesus with this person?
And I want to tell you, tell us, stop worrying so much about all the hypothetical, future chances to talk about Jesus. When Jesus is the topic, that is the chance. Another word for being explicit is simply being a witness. Now it would be great if there are more conversations and this person is transformed by the gospel and baptized this July. That would be great. But the main thing is that we simply want to love our neighbors by being truthful about Jesus whenever we can. Take it or leave it.
Prayer of Confession
Father, we gladly recognize this morning that Jesus is the Lord and Savior and Treasure of our lives. Thank you that he came to this earth to save us from our sins. Thank you that he was made a human just like us, and that he experienced all the same things that we do, and yet, he was absolutely perfect and true. In every way we failed and turned from you, Jesus endured and trusted you, and then he died for us. Thank you that he freely took upon himself our guilt and shame, that he sacrificed his life for ours, and that in exchange for our sin, he has given us his righteousness. Thank you, Father, that Jesus died and was buried, but then on the third day he was raised from the dead. And thank you that even in this moment he is full of mercy for us, that forgiveness is found only in his name. And because of that, because of Jesus, we come to your throne of grace with boldness, and we confess our sins to you now in silence. [...]
Now, Father, we remember that the gospel anthem rings true: we are not dead, but alive; we are not lost, but found; we are not your enemies, but we are your sons and daughters because of your grace alone. Thank you! In Jesus’s name, amen.