We tend to see Jesus through our own lenses — even when looking at his words and actions through the scripture. One young woman’s description of our Savior took our small group by surprise. Did she really just say that?
The words came out innocently with exhilaration. Our Zoom Bible study doesn’t give us many opportunities to see what makes people tick. Bethany, a scientist in the nanotechnology industry, let us into her spirit in one quick phrase.
We were studying the Gospel of Mark where Jesus cleared the temple and called out the hypocrisy of religious leaders. Her spontaneous reaction gave me a moment to pause before I broke out in laughter to her comment, “Jesus was a badass!” Bethany asks the kind of questions that you’re “not supposed to” inquire in Sunday school. She is disturbed at some of Jesus’ teaching, puzzled by others, and mostly un-churchy even though she grew up in a church. She does all this with a sincere faith and commitment to follow our Lord.
“Bethany, that sounds like the title of your upcoming bestselling book,” I responded as the group’s surprised laughter subsided.
I’m sure that not everyone can appreciate her interpretation of Jesus’ character. Serah, an African grad student in Boston, was somewhat shocked. “Isn’t that a bad thing?” We explained how this colloquialism could be used as a compliment as well as a pejorative description. She caught on, but she didn’t seem impressed.
Bethany looked at the scripture much like the kids I’ve worked with in mentoring ministry over the years: unfettered and unfiltered by established religious norms. One girl who read through the Old Testament for the first time exclaimed to me, “There’s a lot of sex in the Bible.” A very true statement which I’ve never heard expressed so plainly. Somehow, I want to read through the Bible in the same way.
While I have no interest in engaging in heresy or disrespecting our Lord, seeing the scripture without all the filters I’ve put in place through the years helps me find Jesus and God the Father in more penetrating ways. In one manner, I need to let Jesus’ words and actions call out my own hypocrisy, whether that be in the way I judge others or the manner in which I treat those who disagree with me.
So, I might not be exclaiming at church, “Jesus was a &%#@!*,” but seeing the scripture with fresh eyes will bring me closer to him.