The Hijacking of Christianity, Part 5
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus was not a Christian; Jesus was a Jew. The Christian church, as we know it today, evolved over many generations after the time of Jesus. In the same way, the Buddha was not a Buddhist, nor was Mohammed a Muslim. The organized systems of thought and practice that were inspired by some of history’s greatest religious and philosophical teachers are often confused with their namesake, but they are not the same. Becoming a member of a church does not make one a Christian – a follower of the Christ – any more than going to a Buddhist temple makes one a Buddhist – a follower of the Buddha – or going to a Mosque makes one a Muslim – a follower of Mohammed.
Jesus’ early followers referred to their movement as The Way. Interestingly, Jesus never asked that an organized religion be created in his name. Rather, he asked that we make disciples, or followers of him and his way of life. Likewise, he never asked to be worshipped, probably knowing that worshipping someone is a whole lot easier and less impactful than following them. The creation of the church might have been one way early followers felt they could make disciples. As with most organizations, however, the organization took on a life of its own and drifted increasingly farther away from the life of Jesus. Thus, Churchianity was born.
That Jesus was a wise and great teacher is not disputed by Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, or others. That Jesus was God’s only son is where Christianity departs from other organized religions. Yet, I would argue that was not a point of importance to Jesus. He referred to himself as the Son of Man, which among its various meanings includes an enlightened, evolved, or mature human being. It was others who referred to him as the Son of God, implying equality with God. He did, however, claim oneness with God, even as he prayed we would become one with him and also one with God (see John 17).
In addition to hijacking the Bible and prayer, the church has also hijacked Jesus by making him, his earthly mission, and his teachings into something non-churched folks are reluctant to take seriously. It is common for non-churched and non-categorized persons to explore the teachings of the Buddha, Mohammed, Lao Tsu, and others, but they often resist Jesus because of the judgmental baggage the church has attached to his name. A notable exception was the Hindu leader Mahatma Gandhi, who claimed to read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) regularly. He said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” That keen observation by an intelligent, perceptive outsider illustrates how far the Christian church often strays from the mission given by Jesus to make disciples of all nations.
Despite the typical narrative, we can make disciples of people without converting them to today’s Christianity. We must first, however, allow Jesus’ teachings to stand on their own without the church. We must remember we were directed to make disciples of Jesus, not disciples of the church.
Jesus’ further instruction to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is also important. The three persons of God refer to the different ways God expresses in our lives. God as Father (or Parent) refers to God as creator. This is the aspect of God that is actively present and at work, usually invisibly, everywhere. God as Son (or Sibling) refers to God embodied in those beside us. We see this in the life of Jesus, as well as in family and friends. God as Holy Spirit is God within us. The knowledge and experience of God around, beside, and within us is what we are to baptize or immerse others in, which is love. We accomplish this by our actions, not our words. That knowledge is what saves people from their materially-focused lives by leading them to a fuller life, and it has never been the exclusive domain of the church. In fact, few churches even teach it, certainly not as Jesus modeled it. It is the reality of God as a dynamic and all-encompassing Trinity of which we are an inseparable part. It is God in relationship to and with us. It is the Good News, or Gospel, that Jesus came to model. Whether inside or outside of the church is much less important. The reality of God’s universal presence is what matters and what needs to be shared.
This is the 10th in the series of Life Notes titled Churchianity vs Christianity. I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning and browse the archives of my Life Notes, Podcasts, music, books, and other musings.
 https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/22155-i-like-your-christ-i-do-not-like-your-christians, accessed March 15, 2021.