It has become fairly common to say, “There are two types of people in the world” and follow it up with the group who loves, does, looks like or forbids something. The other type of people are those who hate, do not, or accepts that same thing. There are givers and takers. There are those who love frogs and those who hate frogs. There are those who read the email messages on their phones and those who do not.
We can make the same assessment about faith, and pointedly about Christians: There are Christians and there are non-Christians. We all know that there are five major world religions, and countless sects and traditional/tribal belief systems, and the generalization can be made about any belief system. Muslims would say that you are not headed to paradise unless you confess the prophet, Jews would say that you are damned if you are not a Jew. Some of the inclusivist or reincarnation-centered religions would not make as black and white a distinction, but would consider some further along in their enlightenment than others.
But we as Christians believe that the sinful nature of humanity has separated us from God and the only way for that relationship to be established is by His grace through the work of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes unto the Father but through me.” We believe that Jesus is the way, He is the gate and the final judge who will welcome or refuse people into eternity with God. Therefore, while we could flippantly say “There are Christians and there are non-Christians”, we recognize the fact that everyone must ultimately answer the single most important question in all of the world, “What do I believe about Jesus?”
When Jesus was on trial, the religious leaders took Him before Pontius Pilate, the governor. He was a Roman official, and the Jews brought Jesus to him so that Jesus could be put to death. We see Pilate in all four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ trial, and his efforts to not find Jesus guilty. In Matthew Pilate washes his hands of Jesus’ blood, in Mark he finds Jesus innocent of plotting against the Roman Empire, in Luke we see him declaring Jesus as innocent for the conspiracy, as well as Herod Antipas, and in John he states, “I find no guilt in Him.” Pilate did not want to execute Jesus, and his wife had a dream about Jesus and warned him not to harm Jesus. Seeking to manipulate the crowds, Pilate brought forward Barabbas, a notorious thief, and asked the crowd which man should be released. By direction of the priests, the crowd chose Barabbas.
When this plan was foiled, he asked the crowd,
“Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”
– Matt 22.27
Here we see the governmental authority asking this most important of questions, the one which we must all answer. What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ? Pilate’s response was inadequate. He sought to keep the guilt from himself, the crowd called the condemnation of guilt upon themselves, but Pilate still handed Jesus over to be crucified – even after acknowledging the fact that He had no guilt and after being warned by his wife.
It is tempting to try to take this middle road. Most of us are not interested in ruffling feathers and causing division or problems. So we try to say that Jesus was a good man, a great teacher, an example for us all. But we want to leave all of His claims and instructions at the door. Was Jesus really God? Did He really imply that we should love our neighbor in the same way that we love ourselves? That is impossible! Do we really have to put aside all of our sinful pleasures and live unto God? Do we really have to go into all the world – even the dangerous parts – and make disciples? Do we really have to love our enemies and forgive people?
It is easy to give Jesus a blanket approval when we do not know what He actually said. But the moment we start reading His commandments and expectations of people, we realize that we will never be able to do the things that He expects of us without the empowering of the Holy Spirit. The rich young man had kept all of the laws of the Old Covenant, tithing, caring for his family, giving to the poor, but Jesus knew that he loved money and to test the man’s surrender to God, He commanded him to sell everything he owned, give it to the poor and follow Jesus. This man could not do it and went away sad. Jesus wants our everything, and if there is nothing that we cannot surrender for the sake of following Him, then we are not saved. This is not simply a “good idea” or example, this is a radical teaching.
C. S. Lewis argued the point beautifully:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
The difficulty for us today is, however, that while we often acknowledge Jesus as God and Lord, we easily walk away from Church or Bible study and forget. If Jesus is supposed to be “lord” of our lives, if He is in charge, has final say, and determines our actions, then we should be consulting him hundreds of times each day about our attitudes, our decisions, our actions… simply: our everything. But how often do we go to church and sing our praise songs and walk out to enjoy our hobbies, have lunch with our friends, and keep working towards the American Dream?
We all must answer the question at least once, “What then shall I do with this Jesus”, but once we have come to faith and are seeking to live the Christian life, we must still answer this question every. single. day.
So let us ask ourselves anew. What will I do with Jesus today? Will I submit to Him? Obey His commands? Die to myself and live unto Him? Or will I just play the game, longing for Heaven without any effect on my life here and now?