If Jesus walked the earth today, what would he stand for? What would he think about the hot-topic issues of the day? Would he be a socialist? An anarchist? A homeless guy? Just a stranger on a bus (trying to make his way home)? Well, we can't know those things with certainty, but we have our opinions. He'd most likely be very charismatic, very passionate about the state of our societies. But envisioning a modern Jesus is tainted, because no one wants to imagine a Jesus who would have differing moral, political, or even religious views.
While Jesus was a figure who drew huge crowds and followers, he was also intensely hated by the very religious figures who had been awaiting the arrival of the Messiah. Why would we expect anything different today? Our neat and tidy picture of a world-changing new-era messianic figure probably looks more like Superman than a smelly carpenter peasant. Have you ever seen a sidewalk prophet shouting that the end is near? How ready are you to join him? It's much easier to write him off as another schizophrenic bum who needs some good meds, a job, and a shower.
But let's forget about finding a new Jesus, or waiting for him to come back for a minute. Let's imagine the awkward reality that we may indeed be wasting our "Jesus" potential. As a Christian, I occasionally have the odd situation pop up when I'd say "Well, Jesus wouldn't do that," followed by a fellow Christian saying, "Stop comparing yourself to Jesus!"
I want you to think long and hard about what I just said.
For years, I've been told... by Christians... not to compare myself to Jesus. Now, first let me clarify something. I do NOT think I am like Jesus, not by a long shot. But isn't being like Jesus the point of being a Christian? So many have made him into a cheap ticket to paradise. Living like him is reduced to some type of guilt-driven gratitude shown to him for how great he was way back then, you know... like thousands of years ago... for dying for us. But since, you know... Jesus' teachings had everything to do with mimicking his behavior (since he was a Rabbi teaching his followers to be like him), then any heaven-laced side effects are beside the point. If you value Jesus' life, you value his life for its own merits, not because of magic mansions in the sky.
By the way, my magic mansion is going to have a pool shaped like Buddha.
Imagine you no longer need to strive for perfection. Imagine you were a modern Jesus, or "Joe Christ" for lack of a better term. (Jane Christ, for the lady-folk). How would you go about ending homeless, hunger, disease, poverty, depression, war, genocide, corruption, boy bands?
In our consumer-driven world, perhaps the knee-jerk reaction would be to throw enough money at the problem. With enough funds we could buy enough houses, medicine, resources, and provide enough education to stop the majority of suffering in the world. But something would still be missing. If you became simply a source of goods for the masses, who simply gave them what they needed to survive and live comfortably, would this be enough? Would it stop bullying? Would it stop domestic abuse? Would addictions be cured? Would depression by wiped out?
Don't get me wrong. The world would be drastically better with all basic needs met, but the world needs more than that. The world needs to be loved. How can our lives inspire those around us to love more fiercely? More completely? We must first recognize our ability to actually live a life in the same caliber as Jesus. For those who fall outside of the tradition of Jesus and Christianity, this principle is still true. We all must realize our potential to be fully human. The goal is both the journey and the destination. Any philosophy that begins with "...but of course you'll never be that good," is doomed. We're capable of far greater things than we've been led to believe.
Secondly, we must go beyond the letter of the law. This is the narrative of Jesus in a nutshell. Again, if you're not a Christian, take this principle to heart nonetheless. We can get away with doing merely what is expected of us, but we are meant to go further.
Have a list of five chores to do? Do six.
Have a card to pick up for your spouse? Pick up a card and then surprise them at work with flowers.
Doing volunteer work? Show up early and leave late.
When you go beyond what is expected, you give the world something much more valuable than what it asked for. You give it love. This is the power that can not be bought by money, by special interests and lobbyists, by social programs. This is the power of humanity waking up, eyes fixed on a new horizon far off but clearer by the day. This is the power of faith, hope, and love, those invisible pillars that forever hold us up.
Once you realize this power is more real than money and religion, your magic mansion in the sky starts to look a little more down to earth.
Just remember to mop the floor.