In a World Full of Religions, Why Do Christians Think They’re The Only Ones Who Are Right?

Before going anywhere with this topic, we are forced to reconcile one key point. None of us are experts on all religions. Many of us have experiences with other religions, but we can not assume to be experts on all forms of religion and theology. But what we can do is look at what we believe and consider why we have that belief today.

 

Many people believe the way they do because they were brought up in an environment that practiced the religion that they have today. Many believe what they do because they have had some sort of experience that ‘awakened’ them to the concept of a God or spirituality as something real. Others have put into practice the teachings of a specific religion and have found what they see as truth and validation for those beliefs. But, for others, they simply haven’t had that experience that told them that God (or a particular religion) is real. So without nitpicking a specific religion, we can already draw some lines in the sand about what is right.

 

We know that many religions share a common concept of good and evil. Many of the practices and values could be considered good across these religions. We should love one another, don’t steal, don’t murder, care for the poor, meditation, etc. We could probably make a very large list of valuable ideas and practices that could be shared across these religions.

Enter Jesus. Many believe that Jesus was real. Many also believe in his teachings. If you, however, believe in his teachings, must wrestle with his claims of deity.  He also claimed to be the only way to God (John 14:6). This sets Christianity apart from many other religions. It isn’t about earning your way to God through good deeds or daily practices. It is about accepting that you (or anyone) can not do it on your own. If you believe that you can earn your way to God or heaven, or whatever the good side of the afterlife is, then you are not really accepting the teachings of Jesus. It is because Jesus is at the focal point of Christianity that Christians ultimately think that they are uniquely right.  Taking Jesus seriously logically leads to the conclusion that he is the only way to be restored to God and makes Christianity uniquely true.  To argue for any sort of shared truth among religions rejects Jesus’ claims to be the only means of restoration to God.

God Loves Everyone So Why Do Christians Suck?

Christians and the church often fail to show God’s love to a needy, watching world.  Instead of a reflection of the ever loving, gracious God, Christians are viewed as judgemental, hateful bigots.  Why is this the case?

The “Them” concept

Some of the more vocal in this arena, are  Christians who are clearly not loving towards those with opposing views.  For example, those who stand on street corners or soap boxes with signs condemning others, those that protest at funerals, or those that hold rallies burning Korans.  Here we see pretty clearly candid examples of unloving approaches despite a Christian banner.  Is this it then, tied up in a bow, this set of Christians are giving the rest of us a bad name?  I fear that stance may be a case of the squeaky wheel gets the grease.  It’s easy to blame the loud wheel for drawing attention, but the view from 20 feet is that the whole cart is going astray.

“The Collective” approach

Unfortunately the sin of the Pharisee (self righteousness, being judgemental and disparaging)  is alive and well in every corner of the church.  There are those who cast judgement – creating a separated,  insular community that is at times harder to penetrate than a fort. Often times we fail to show to others the same grace that we all gleefully lap up.  Strangely enough, we frequently fail to show it to, or expect it from those  within our own communities. We keep up a facade because even in our church we fear exposing our cracks.   We often forget that the church is for the broken, and that none can fully accept Christ unless they are first grieved by their own sin.  Because of this, we risk making church into a country club – at times deciding who is welcome, how they ought to dress, and how they ought to act.  Here, yet again, I fear we’re playing hot potato.  This excuse is just another case of ‘us versus them’, and perhaps an attempt at diluting individual responsibility.  From this perspective we can absolve ourselves of personal blame; but do any of us really have a leg to stand on in this regard?

“The Individual”

I, ______ an individual Christian, routinely fail to love: in my relationships, in my giving, when I am stressed, when I am hungry, when I am busy, or broke, when it’s too late, when it’s too early and on and on – countless excuses why this time, dying to self is just a bit too inconvenient.

So what do we do, now that we have identified the problem?  We can stop dodging the blame, and recognize that we are guilty of failing the mark. So how do we stop sucking?  By evaluating our own day to day interactions and missed opportunities, seeing our own failings.  It is likely that during these times of introspection, if we obey the impulses and tuggings of the Holy Spirit, rather than those of our inherent self serving nature, we will – by God’s grace – begin to suck a little less.

 

A Generous Lent

What is Lent?

Lent is one of the oldest most honored traditions of the Christian Church.  It is the 40 day period before Easter when Jesus was preparing for the cross.  Traditionally, the Church has used this time to remember Jesus preparation and sacrifice and prepare to celebrate his glorious resurrection.  There was a time, centuries ago, when Lent was the time when all new believers prepared for baptism and to officially join the Church.  Throughout the centuries the importance of Lent has changed among the various Christian traditions.  Among Roman Catholics it’s a time to remember Christ’s preparation for the cross by denying themselves meat on Fridays and for many by fasting from a particular habit or luxury throughout the 40 day period.  Some protestants use have special decor and vestments (sacred clothing worn by ministers during worship services) used to help focus worshippers on Jesus’ preparation.  Others simply ignore Lent until Palm Sunday.

What are We Doing?

We’ve decided to take part in  Do Lent Generously an initiative launched by Stewardship, an organization in the UK.  Our goal is to take this important season remembering Jesus’ preparation for the cross as a time to focus more intentionally on living missionally.  We want to honor Jesus and what he did by living intentionally the way Jesus call us to live, experiencing and expressing his love.

How Does This Work?

For the 40 days of Lent, Do Lent Generously will send out a daily generosity challenge.  We take the challenge and try to be generous in the way described.  The generosity challenges include, financial, time, emotional, and relational generosity.  It will culminate at the and of Lent with a generosity event.  (We’ve got a great on planned, but more on that later.)

If you’d like to join us go to Do Lent Generously for more information and sign up to receive the daily emails.  Then, contact us so we can pray for and encourage you during Lent.  You will also be among the first to find out about the special generosity event and have the opportunity to join in.

Have a blessed and generous Lent.

Grace and peace,
Bryon
Team Leader for Agape Ann Arbor

Moved with Compassion

A few years ago while attending a conference I had an experience that changed my view of the world forever.  I was sitting in the very back row of the balcony of venue watching a video that had been produced to raise awareness regarding the plight of children living in extreme poverty.  The scene was a relatively busy city street.  The time stamp said it was about 8p.  A little girl no more than 10 years old entered the frame carrying some blankets and a pillow.  I watched as she meticulously made a little place to sleep on that busy street.  She spread out the blankets very carefully, lining the edges up neatly.  Then put her tattered and dirty purple and pink pillow down, curled up under the top blanket and went to sleep.  The whole time you could see feet walking by.  No one stopped.  Cut to 9:10p.  The girl seems to be sleeping soundly.  Feet still walk past.  None of them break stride.  They continue past.  Cut to 10:42p.  The girl stirs a little.  She’s trying to find a more comfortable position on that cold hard pavement.  More feet pass.  Feet keep walking past.  They never stop.  As I write this remembering the images, I’m almost in tears again.

That video created a visceral feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Ever since then, my wife and I have made a point to give financially to organizations that help provide for little girls like that.  As a member of the Ann Arbor West Rotary Club, I am currently working on two projects that will help little girls like that.

Have you ever had that feeling in the pit of your stomach?  That feeling of sorrow and pain for someone else?

I think Jesus had a feeling like when he saw the crowds of people that gathered when he taught.  In Matthew 9:36, it says that Jesus had compassion for or was moved with compassion for the crowds.  In the original language that word describes an emotion that creates a visceral response.  When he saw all the people looking for someone to believe in, someone to follow, someone in whom they could trust, Jesus felt like I did watching that video of the little girl.  It was for them, for us, that he came, lived, taught, died, and rose again.  He did that out of love.  He was moved with compassion.

How should this inform the life of the Christ-follower?

When’s the last time you were moved with compassion?  When was the last time you saw an injustice and felt in the pit of your stomach that something must be done to fix it?

The world is full of injustice.  Full of evil.  Full of sin.

The good news of Jesus Christ is that he came to right the wrongs, heal the sick, free those in bondage (both spiritually and physically).  God sent Jesus to do that.  Jesus is sending his church to continue on the mission that he started while he was here.

This is what it means to be the “body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27).  As his body, we are to continue to do the work that he started.  This is how we spread the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.

If we’re not actively working to spread the Kingdom of God by eliminating sin and evil in the world, we are not following Jesus.  We should be moved with compassion to do something to fight the evil that is rampant in this world.  This is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

What moves you with compassion?

Embrace the Expectation of Rejection

Rejection is one of the worst feelings we can experience.  We are communal creatures.  We are designed to live connected with each other.  For that reason, being rejected or excluded cuts deep.  Yet, the feeling of rejection is common to the human experience.  Just think of all the books, movies, plays, and television shows that revolve around the feeling of rejection.  Rejection is real.  It hurts.  We all experience it.

Not only is rejection painful and common, I’ve observed that there seems to be a positive correlation between people who do great things and the amount of rejection they experience.  It seems that rejection affects people who do great things disproportionately over people who don’t.  If you’d like to investigate this yourself consider: Ghandi, William Wilberforce, and Susan B. Anthony.

This, of course, is true of Jesus as well.  He was rejected by his hometown (Mark 6:1-6; Matthew 13:54-58; Luke 4:16-30).  He by his broader community in Galilee (Matthew 11:20-24; Luke 10:13-35).  He was rejected by many of his followers (John 6:60-66).  He was rejected by his people, the Jews (John 7).  He was rejected by one of his closest friends (John 18:15-27).  Jesus experienced a great deal of rejection and when he died only his mother, one friend, and a few women who followed him were there (John 19:25-27).

Rejection is something Jesus could have avoided.  Popular acclaim was one of the things with which Satan tempted him (Matthew 4:8).  There were innumerable chances for Jesus to either stop what he was doing or to become the person the people wanted.  He did none of this.  He expected rejection and embraced it.

How Should This Inform the Life of the Christ-Follower

None of us wants to experience rejection.  Just think of the ridiculous things we’ve done in life to be accepted.  Don’t think you’ve ever done anything ridiculous to be accepted?  I have two words for you: middle school.  We all spend some part of our emotional energy trying to make sure we’re not rejected and wondering if we will be rejected.

But guess what.

If you are following Jesus, you will be rejected.  “‘If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. … Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you” (John 15:18, 20b).

I think it’s important to note at this point that it was the religious leaders that most rejected Jesus.  The people clearly not following God did not reject Jesus.  The people that thought they were following God closely rejected him.  I often hear people lamenting how Christianity is rejected in the public sphere.  These same people often blame negative aspects of our culture on the media and political policies with which they don’t agree.  I am not saying that this isn’t a form of rejection, but it’s not the only rejection that Christ-followers are going to experience.  That rejection is distant and doesn’t cut very deeply.

There is a worse rejection that Christ-followers will endure.  That is rejection by people in the religious establishment or people close to you.  If you follow Jesus, you will experience that kind of rejection too.  Anytime you upset the apple cart in Jesus name you will experience rejection.

When we experience rejection, we should respond like Jesus.  We should expect and embrace rejection.

If you are following Jesus, expect rejection.  We should never be surprised when people reject and ridicule us for doing what Jesus has called us to do.  It’s a reality of living in God’s Kingdom.  There are people, spirits, and institutions that are fighting violently against King Jesus and his Kingdom.  A common weapon in their arsenal is rejection.  Don’t be surprised when you are rejected.  Jesus was.

If you are following Jesus embrace rejection.  Embrace don’t chase rejection.  We’ve all met people that are chasing rejection.  Jesus never chased rejection.  If you chase rejection you’ll get it, but you won’t be spreading the Good News of Jesus in the process.  Embracing rejection means welcoming it as a natural part of following Jesus and using it to guide you to new aspects of eternal life.  To find practical ways to embrace rejection read the Book of Acts.  The first church spread in large part through rejection.

Rejection hurts.  No emotionally healthy individual enjoys rejection.  Yet, it is a natural part of life and I believe those of us who choose to follow Jesus completely will experience a disproportionately greater amount than others.  We can’t fight it.  We can’t avoid it.  We can like Jesus expect and embrace it.

What examples of expecting and embracing rejection have you seen?

Following Jesus Requires Community

Have you ever noticed how the movies and stories that seem to affect us the most revolve around the relationships of the characters.  It’s almost as if the authors, playwrights, and screenwriters are only writing stories to provide a context in which the characters can interact with each other.  It’s true of movies, books, plays, and even TV shows.  My wife and I were just commenting on how one of our favorite TV shows isn’t as good as it used to be since many of the cast members have left and been replaced.  The relationships that had become so important to us aren’t there anymore and it affects our enjoyment of the show.

The relationships in stories are important to us because we’re relational beings. We were created to live in relationship. From the beginning humanity has always needed and valued relationships. This reality is seen in the story of Jesus as well. During his ministry, Jesus formed a community. All four of the canonical gospels describe Jesus inviting people into his community. Jesus formed a community that experienced and expressed God’s love.

Think about this, in the strictest sense, did Jesus need to form a community.  Jesus could have accomplished just about everything he wanted without his disciples getting in the way.  Did Jesus need his disciples to be able to teach?  No, the crowds found him without the need of a PR department.  Did Jesus need his disciples to perform miracles?  No, that power came from God not the disciples and often they didn’t understand what Jesus was doing anyway.  Did Jesus need his disciples to redeem humanity through his death and resurrection?  Clearly, no one could do that but him.

Yet, I propose that Jesus did need to form a community.  And it wasn’t just to carry on his message after he was gone.  Nor was it merely for theological reasons (i.e. 12 disciples representing the 12 tribes of Israel).  Those reasons are important but, I don’t think they are the most important.  I believe the key reason Jesus had to form a community was because humanity needs community.  The first time anything was “not good” in all of creation was when the first human was alone.  Don’t believe me?  Reread the story in Genesis 1 & 2. We are communal beings.  To experience the fullness of who we are as humans we need community.  Our identity, our purpose, our value are all realized in the context of community.  I said realized in, not defined by.  Those things are defined by God, which is another relationship but that’s not the topic here. Who we are and what we are is realized in the context of relationships.

The idea that we can live successfully on our own is a pernicious lie.  John Donne illustrated this in his famous poem “No Man is an Island:”
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Jesus built a community because it is essential to the human experience.  Moreover, he built a community to show us what community should look like.  Like everything that humanity touches, our relationships are affected by sin.  Jesus shows us the what relationships should look like.  He shows us in the context of a community; a community that experiences and expresses God’s love.

How Should This Inform the Life of a Christ-follower?

We need community.  We cannot follow Jesus alone.  The only way to truly follow him is in the context of community.  He illustrated that by living in community.  Moreover, to live out the greatest commandments presupposes a community:

“The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these” (Mark 12:29b-31)

Furthermore, Jesus tells us that the only way people can tell if we are following him is by how we love each other.  That can only be done

Challenging the Institution

A young man from Montana who had gathered a small following of farmers and ranchers burst into the U.S. Capitol building the morning of the President’s State of the Union address. The young man with a burning passion bordering on manic rage began shouting and screaming and chased the lobbyists out of the Capitol building. He was fed up with the lobby system in the country. He felt that lobbyists, funded by wealthy individuals and organizations of both the liberal and conservative persuasions, were ruining the American political system. Because of the huge amounts of money these lobbyists were able to bring to bear in support of their specific issue the young man believed that the common man, the people Congress was elected to represent, no longer had a voice in their government. At the top of his lungs he shouted, “The Constitution provides for a Congress to represent the people in government, but you have turned it into an auction for the rich buying votes like they buy art!”

Now, this isn’t intended as a political statement. It is the closest contemporary illustration I could come up with to describe what Jesus did when he cleansed temple in Jerusalem.

On the busiest day in Jerusalem, when the Jewish people were traveling there to celebrate the Passover (one of the most important Jewish religious holidays), Jesus walks into the Temple, the center of Jewish worship.

In the Temple, there were people selling animals for sacrifice and changing Roman coins for Jewish ones. Like lobbying, this system of selling animals and changing money was intended to help the common people. It was a lot of work and money to transport animals for sacrifice to Jerusalem. The Roman coins were stamped with images of gods or the emperor and were considered improper to give in worship (this had to do with the prohibition on worshipping images). The farther one lived from Jerusalem, the center of Jewish culture and commerce, the harder it was to find Jewish coins. Those “selling oxen and sheep and pigeons and the money-changers” were there providing a service.

The problem was the people providing the service had corrupted the service. Like any vacation destination today the prices changed based on the anticipated volume of business. Basic economics, when the demand goes up and the supply doesn’t change the price goes up. This was a particular burden on the poor. Not only had it cost them a lot to travel to Jerusalem to attend the Passover celebration now they had to pay inflated fees for the sacrifices necessary to participate. Which, by the way, violated Jewish religious Law. According to the Old Testament, the rich were expected to share their Passover sacrifice and feast with the poor. The system intended to help the common people became institutionalized oppression of the poor.

Another issue with the animal-sellers and money-changers was the location in which they set up shop. They set up shop in the Temple. They were selling and changing money in what was called the Court of the Gentiles. This was the only area in the Temple where non-Jewish worshippers of the Jewish God, called “God-Fearers”, were allowed to worship. By setting up their kiosks there, the shop-keepers and money-changers were preventing the God-Fearers from worshipping God. The system intended to help the common people became institutionalized racism.

Jesus saw this and was enraged. I imagine him seething as he walked through the Temple court observing this institutionalized oppression and racism. The Bible says that as he fumed he found three strips of leather and wove together a whip. Once he had finished the whip he used it to chase out the people oppressing the poor and preventing the racial minority from worshipping God. As he did he shouted “How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:16b).

Jesus saw institutionalized sin and challenged it. He would not let it stand.

How should this inform the life of the Christ-follower?

Institutionalized sin is real. It can be seen in countries that don’t allow girls to be educated. It can be seen in governments that imprison people for religious or political reasons. It can be seen in corporations that turn a blind eye to violations of human dignity to save money on materiels. Institutionalized sin is real and it’s prevalent.

When Jesus saw institutionalized sin he challenged it. When Christ-followers see institutionalized sin we should challenge it.

What are some ways you can think of to challenge institutionalized sin?

Symbols of Sin Become Symbols of Joy

According to the Gospel of John, Jesus’ first miracle was one of his most famous and has become one of the most controversial. At some point early in his public ministry, Jesus and his disciples are invited to a wedding. If the accounts that I’ve read are accurate the first century Jews knew how to party. You’ve never experienced a party like a Jewish wedding in first century Palestine.

The wedding in the town of Cana would have been no different. Spirits were high and the wine was flowing. And therein lies the problem. The wine was flowing faster than the host intended. They ran out of wine before the party was over and this was a major faux pas.

This is where Jesus comes in. Jesus didn’t want the party or the host’s reputation to be ruined. Not far from where Jesus was standing when he heard the news were several large ceramic barrels used for ceremonial washing. You see, not only were the first century Jews great partiers, they were also spiritual hypochondriacs. They lived in a constant state of fear of becoming spiritually impure. (This is an issue that Jesus will address repeatedly in his ministry.)

The guests of the party used this water to wash their hands before they ate to ensure that they consumed no spiritual impurities. This hand-washing was not just good hygiene. This was religious ritual cleansing.

This water represented a way of relating to God that Jesus came to renew and improve upon. This water was symbol of why people don’t experience the love of God the way he intends. This water is a symbol of sin and evil and all the bad things we deal with because of sin and evil in the world.

Jesus takes this symbol of sin and how humanity isn’t experiencing God’s love and changes is to wine. That’s pretty impressive in and of itself. Changing water into wine is almost as good as walking on water (we’ll get to that on later.) Yet changing water to wine so that the party could continue is only a small part of what Jesus is doing.

For first century Jews, wine is a symbol of joy and God’s favor. Jesus took the symbol of religious fear and the consequences of sin and changed it to a symbol of joy. Jesus took something that reminded people that they couldn’t live up to God’s standards and changed it into something that reminded them that God loves them. One of the biggest transitions that Jesus leads us through as faith in God transitions from the Old Covenant to the New, from Mosaic Judaism to Christianity is the transition from focusing on the need to be restored to God to focusing on God’s love that restores humanity to him.

That’s really the story of the Bible. God created humanity to express his love to us. The first humans and every human after rejected this love by choosing to love themselves more than God. God desperately wants to restore his relationship with humanity. God sent Jesus to restore that relationship. We can experience the love of God through Jesus.

Jesus’ first miracle was a symbol of that story. He took a symbol that represented how we are missing out on God and changed it to a symbol of joy and God’s love.

How should this inform the life of the Christ-follower?

All around us there are ceremonial washing vessels. There are symbols of sin and our separation from the love of God. They can be seen in poverty, racism, disease, suffering, hatred, anger … do I need to go on? As Christ-followers, we can’t let the symbols stand. We need to actively transform these symbols to something else. We need change these symbols to symbols of love and joy. We need to show people they can experience God’s love. We do this by expressing it.

Earlier this week, I saw a news story of a New York City police officer who did just this. He saw a homeless man sitting on the street without any shoes. On a whim he went into a shoe store close by and bought a pair of shoes for the man. He then went to the man and put shoes and socks on the man.

Very few things reveal the reality of sin and pain in the world that a homeless person who cannot even find shoes in the winter. Very few things express God’s love more than putting shoes on the feet of someone who desperately needs them. This police officer transformed a symbol of sin into a symbol of joy and peace.

May we all open our eyes and see the world the way this officer does, the way Jesus does, and may we transform symbols of sin and evil into symbols of joy and peace by expressing God’s love to a world that desperately needs it.

The Fellowship of the Gospel

When Jesus’ returns from his odyssey in the wilderness experiencing, for perhaps the first time, the temptation to sin, he begins public ministry. The Four Gospels place varying levels of emphasis on this initial phase of his ministry. We can see that it consisted of both preaching and miraculous actions (i.e. healing diseases and exorcising demons). In this context, Jesus calls his first disciples.

There are a lot of ways to approach this action. Jesus’ calling of his disciples is significant in many multifaceted ways. Today, I want to focus on the simple fact hat he did it.

Jesus called disciples to be with him and to learn from him. There are a lot of reasons why he did this. He wanted a community of people with whom to build relationships. He wanted people who would tell his story after he was gone. He was training the ones who would eventually be the leaders in his church. You can probably come up with your own more extensive list. At the end of the day, however, one thing we know for sure is that he called people to follow him. As a matter of fact, this is one of the few facts that has never been in dispute about Jesus. It’s virtually undeniable that he called people to follow him.

Jesus formed his own fellowship ala J.R.R. Tolkien (If you don’t get that reference, please go watch the first Lord of the Rings movie Fellowship of the Ring. Although you’d be much better served reading the book.). Jesus formed a community that would experience and express God’s love with him.

How should this inform the life of the Christ-follower?

Jesus chose to live in community. Jesus chose to have imperfect, sinful, foolish, inexperienced, inefficient, ineffective people around him. Jesus built a community with which to experience and express God’s love. Every Christ-follower should do the same. Living the Jesus life means building community.

Not everyone will be a missionary or a pastor. Not everyone will plant a church or lead a gathering of Christ-followers. But, all Christ-followers should work to build community in whatever context they find themselves. People living incarnationally, living missionally, will build Jesus-centered communities.

What are some ways you build community in your context?

Jesus in Cloud City

After Jesus was baptized he went into the “wilderness” to be “tempted.” This is kind of a strange story to me. Throughout the Bible we’re admonished to avoid temptation. A few pages later in the story Jesus is going to tell us to pray that God will keep us from temptation and evil. Yet, Jesus is intentionally walking alone into a place where he will be tempted.

It’s like a scene from a movie. The hero, Jesus, has just been introduced as the hero and the one who will defeat evil. Usually at this point in the story the hero knows just enough to be dangerous. And the hero, prematurely, heads into battle virtually assured a sound thrashing. It’s Luke Skywalker heading to Cloud City to face Darth Vader before he’s ready. In the movies the hero is always defeated. Fortunately for us this isn’t a movie.

Jesus isn’t defeated. Satan does his best to tempt Jesus. But Jesus wins. I’m confident I would have failed the test. I would have failed the first temptation. Jesus didn’t. Jesus never sinned.

So what? Who cares? Why is this important? Looking at the story 2000 years later, with two millennia of church history and theology behind us, it’s no surprise that the God-man didn’t sin. He’s Jesus. Of course he didn’t sin. He’s the guy that really did walk on water.

It’s important because he experienced what we experience. There is no temptation that you or I have ever experienced that Jesus didn’t experience. Every temptation I face Jesus has experienced it. Every temptation you face Jesus has experienced it. Don’t believe me? Take a break and read 1 Corinthians 10:13 and Hebrews 4:15. Jesus faced it all. He faced more and worse than you and I ever will because he faced it all.

Most of the books I’ve read and lessons I’ve heard emphasize Jesus’ success in facing temptation. They focus on Jesus’ magnificence and his divine strength. Or, the focus on his strategy in facing temptation as a model for us. Both of these things are incredibly important, but there’s something even more important.

He was tempted.

Jesus was really tempted.

The temptations weren’t imaginary. They weren’t merely annoying hoops to jump through so that he could get on to the important work of dying and resurrecting. Jesus faced temptation. He knows what it’s like to be tempted. When I’m tempted, Jesus knows what it feels like. When your tempted, Jesus knows what it feels like.

By being baptized, Jesus identified with us. By being tempted, Jesus learned to empathize with us.

How should this inform the life of a Christ-follower?

Empathy is underrated. Empathy is important. Empathy is what moves us from merely identifying with the people around us to loving the people around us. Empathy is a necessary component to loving our neighbor as ourselves, particularly when our neighbor is different from us. Empathy is necessary to express God’s love.

Oftentimes, Christ-followers forget how important it is to empathize with people who don’t know Jesus. We have a penchant for looking down on people that don’t conform to our social/moral standards, whether they’re really Jesus’ standards or not.

We forget that sin is sin is sin. The drug addicted homeless person pan-handling downtown or the power-addicted CEO that ignores that pan-handler everyday as they walk to their office is no worse than you. The fact is, we all have sinned. We’re all tempted. We all need Jesus.

Jesus knows what it’s like to be tempted. Jesus empathizes with us when we’re tempted. Jesus empathizes with them when they’re tempted. Jesus models for us that we need to empathize with people different from us. It’s vital to expressing God’s love.

What barriers do you think people face when it comes to empathizing with others.