Of all the possible ways to think about Jesus Christ, the one that baffles me most is indifference. He is the most remarkable character in all history and literature, and for that reason alone he deserves a close look. I don’t think that’s disputable. Obviously there’s debate as to whether he’s an historical character or a fictional one. The thing is, though, either way, he stands out above all the rest.
He stands out in the eyes of the other major religions. As Craig Hazen has said (paraphrased),
Consider how universally Jesus is revered – however misinterpreted – in Islam and other religions. Buddhism and Hinduism have plenty of room for a great teacher like Jesus. Islam specifically refers to him and claims to believe the Bible (though they believe in error that it has been seriously mistranslated). If nearly everyone wants to make room for Jesus and He has such a dramatic impact on the world (even to the point of our calendar being based on his birth), why not start with the religion that puts him front and center?
He stands out in the eyes of great leaders. Napoleon said,
I will tell you. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself have founded great empires. But our empires were founded on force. Jesus alone founded His empire on love, and to this day millions would die for Him. I think I understand something of human nature, and I tell you, all these were men, and I am a man. Jesus Christ was more than man.
I have inspired multitudes with a devotion so enthusiastic that they would have died for me. But to do this it was necessary that I should be visibly present with the electric influence of my looks, my words, my voice. Who cares for me now removed as I am from the active scenes of life, and from the presence of men? Who would now die for me?
Twice recently I’ve written of Jesus’ extraordinary authority and its extraordinary effect. In response to the more recent article, bbigej tweeted sarcastically, “Jesus was pretty unique, therefore a supreme creative cosmic intelligence exists and it was Jesus in human form,” followed by the equally sarcastic, “#apologetics.”
Actually, no, my purpose had more to do with expressing my complete, stunned admiration, even worship, toward Jesus Christ, than apologetics. There is a time to speak of whether Jesus Christ was real, and there is a time to gaze in stunned admiration upon the reality of which I am convinced. Jesus Christ is, ultimately, not a concept to be proved but God in the flesh, to be worshiped and followed.
I get that there is great controversy around that last statement. What I don’t get is anyone’s apathy toward Jesus. Do you think he was merely a legend? Even then, there is something incredibly extraordinary about him.
I’m going to speculate about that indifference toward Jesus, admitting up front that I’m likely to get it wrong for some readers. You’re invited to tell us what’s really going on in your case.
There must be some, even in the West, who don’t know enough about Jesus to know whether he was an impressive character or not. They know about religion, which has its own ways of being impressive, some good and some bad. They don’t know about Jesus Christ.
There must be some who lack the historical imagination to wonder what it was about Jesus that caused such an upheaval in history.
There must be some who have been told that Jesus doesn’t matter, and who have taken that on someone else’s authority rather than searching it out for themselves.
There must be some who don’t want Jesus to matter, because they don’t want to have to face the life changes he (or his example) asks of them.
There must be some who have absorbed their apathy by osmosis. It might be something like this: “If my school/college/boss/preferred news source doesn’t think Jesus makes any difference, then I don’t need to think he matters either;” only without putting that much conscious thought behind it.
There must be some who miss discovering the reality of Jesus because he won’t be found anywhere along the path of least resistance they prefer to follow.
There must be some who believe that giving attention to Jesus is backwater and fundamentalist, so ignoring him is the way to seem sophisticated.
All those reasons are weak. The last one is positively upside-down, the equivalent of, “I’ll show my social/mental superiority by ignoring the most influential figure in all history.”
If this bothers anyone, as I fully expect, let it be known that my purpose is not to insult but to goad you on to taking a closer look at Jesus Christ. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you can examine his life story without having to decide whether you believe it’s true. I hope you’ll consider the truth question eventually, but I’d rather you ask it after you read the accounts, not before.
Just read about the man, Jesus Christ. Start here, read it through, decide later. It’s been called “the greatest story ever told.” Experience the greatness, even if to you, for now, it’s just a story. Don’t settle for apathy.