Brian McLaren, in his book, A Generous Orthodoxy, writes about the seven Jesus’ he has found throughout his Christian Journey. He first met the “Conservative Protestant Jesus,” who was born to die for his sin, but there was something missing because it seemed to individualistic and legalistic. So, he kept searching. He then found the “Pentecostal/Charismatic Jesus,” who was present and personal, full of life and energy, yet this Jesus didn’t seem to have much concern for the world or the church’s history. So, he kept searching. He then found the “Roman Catholic Jesus,” who was steeped in tradition and full of compassion, but this Jesus seemed too exclusive. So, he kept searching. This led him to find the “Eastern Orthodox Jesus,” who was full of mystery and the Trinity,” which led him to the “Liberal Protestant Jesus,” who focused on social justice, which led him to the “Anabaptist Jesus,” who was a pacifist and full of peace, which led to the “Liberation Theology Jesus,” who fought against global injustice for the poor and oppressed. Sometimes this Christian Journey is really confusing. Which Jesus is the right Jesus?
Bono is apparently on this same search party in “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” He writes, “I have climbed highest mountains, I have run through the fields, only to be with you. I have run, I have crawled, I have scaled these city walls, only to be with you, but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for . . . I have burned with desire, I have held the hand of the devil . . .” This is a man on a mission. He even goes so far to say offer a sinner’s prayer saying, “You broke the bonds, and you loosed the chains, carried the cross of my shame, you know I believe it, but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” Many of us have stories like this—searching for the right Jesus, at least, it seems that so many have such a strong opinion about the one they’ve found.
Maybe you’re not searching for Jesus so much as a renewed passion for faith in Christ. You have experienced the honeymoon of conversion, where your cup runneth over, and you feel that God is with you, but now it’s hard to remember how God called you here in the first place. CS Lewis writes about this experience in The Screwtape Letters, which is a collection of letters written from an elder demon, Screwtape, to a demon-in-training, Wormwood. In order for Wormwood to climb hellish corporate ladder, he must convince his patient to turn his back on God. About half way through the book, Wormwood is doing a fine job:
My dear Wormwood, obviously you are making excellent progress . . . I am almost glad to hear that [your patient] is still a churchgoer and a communicant. I know there are dangers in this; but anything is better than that he should realize the break he has made with the first month of his Christian life. As long as he retains externally the habits of a Christian, he can still be made to think of himself as one who has adopted a few new friends and amusements, but whose spiritual state is much the same as it was six weeks ago . . . a few weeks ago you had to tempt him with inattention in his prayers: but now, you will find him opening his arms to you and almost begging you to distract his purpose and benumb his heart . . . You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness, but do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy, God . . . Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick.
Later Wormwood begins to slip up. Screwtape writes, “My dear Wormwood, the most alarming thing in your last account of the patient is that he is making none of those confident resolutions which marked his original conversion. No more lavish promises of perpetual virtue, I gather; not even the expectation of an endowment of ‘grace’ for life, but only a hope for the daily and hourly pittance to meet the daily and hourly temptation! This is very bad.”
The great prophet Elijah came to a point in his ministry when he felt alone and abandoned by God. He was fasting for 40 days and 40 night, sleeping in a cave. God came to him and asked him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” Times are rough for Elijah. I find hope that this great prophet, too, went through struggles. God said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about the pass by.” Then there was a great wind which split rocks, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire, and after the fire there was the sound of silence, or a still, small voice.
This was the problem with the Colossian church. They were being led away from faith by philosophies and the elements of the world. They were searching for Christ in creation, whether it be rock and trees or philosophical thought. You see, the Colossians had it backwards. They were finding philosophies which worked for them, and then mapping faith onto it. It’s like saying, “I agree with the Republicans, therefore Jesus must be a Republican,” or “I love worship when I leave with a warm, fuzzy feeling, therefore Jesus came that we might have warm, fuzzy feelings.” What Brian McLauren discovered is that all of these different Jesuses that he was discovering wasn’t really Jesus at all. He was simply looking at the bottom of a well. He was really looking into a mirror. He was conforming Jesus into his own image instead of being conformed to Christ. Christianity is not about finding the right Jesus, it is about realizing that you have already been found by Christ. If you continue to search for a Jesus who suits you, you will never find him because faith lifts our eyes to God and our arms to each other. It’s not about me. Paul writes,
“For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every rule and authority . . . when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.”
It is not about finding the right Jesus, it is realizing that you have been found by Jesus, the one who forgives and redeems and gives life. If we believe in this forgiveness and this life, and provide to others forgiveness and life, then how could you have found the wrong Jesus? If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, I have a suggestion. After God reveals himself to Elijah, God asks, “Elijah, what are you doing here?” Elijah responds with the same grievance as before. So God says, “Go down the mountain and serve.” So . . . go down the mountain and serve. Go and forgive someone. Go and do something life-giving for someone in need . . . let me know how it goes. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.