Today, I’d like to introduce you to Fundamentalist Jesus. Fundamentalist Jesus had parents who were above reproach. They were founding members of the local temple. His mother was married when he was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Everyone said fundamentalist Jesus would grow up to do a mighty work for God.
Fundamentalist Jesus grew into a young adult, working hard in his earthly father’s carpentry shop and obeying his parents. When people in the community had parties where alcohol was served, fundamentalist Jesus stayed home. “Drinking wine is a sin,” he would say. “And I don’t wish to be seen in the company of sinners. Just think of what it would do to my reputation!”
Later, fundamentalist Jesus enrolled in the Bible school at his local synagogue. He learned all about God’s will for his life and how to build an effective ministry. He became a close friend of some of the religious leaders who mentored him. “These guys follow God’s commands to the letter,” he said. “They really have their lives in order. Just look at how blessed they are!”
Fundamentalist Jesus worked his way up in the temple, overseeing different ministries and earning a comfortable salary. Whenever he went out in public, he was often accosted by people who were sick and impoverished. One day, a man with leprosy asked him for help. “Well, it’s obvious you’re not living right, or you wouldn’t be sick,” Jesus told him. “Go to the temple and ask the priests to offer a sacrifice for you. I know lambs are expensive, but sometimes you have to invest in your spirituality!”
Fundamentalist Jesus went on to write a bestselling book about how believers could receive healing and wealth by following five simple principles. The proceeds from the book made him very wealthy. He invested a portion of the profits and had a children’s hospital built in the city. “It’s good to give to charity and help others,” he said. “And the tax write-off is nice, too.”
After that, fundamentalist Jesus went throughout the city in the nicest robes and sandals that money could buy. He kept his beard trimmed and his hair meticulously combed. He avoided the seedier parts of town, staying far away from areas where loan sharks, prostitutes and Samaritans were known to gather. “God has blessed me with so much,” he would say. “People need to see what happens when you follow God’s commands.”
Eventually, fundamentalist Jesus built his own temple and began preaching to the masses. The temple was the grandest anybody had ever seen. The entire foyer was surrounded by a 23,000-gallon fish tank. People, both the wealthy and the desperate, came from all over the city to attend services. Fundamentalist Jesus knew that the temple would need lots of offerings to pay for the building and various ministries. When he saw a widow putting just one coin into the offering, he was disturbed. “Woman, where is your faith?” he said. “Surely you can give more than that to God’s work! Let’s invest in the Kingdom!”
One day, some of the religious leaders brought a woman to fundamentalist Jesus. “We caught this woman in adultery!” they exclaimed. “The law says we should stone her to death. What should we do?” Fundamentalist Jesus thought for a moment. “Killing her seems a bit extreme. But we can’t condone her behavior. Throw her out of the temple. And make sure everyone knows what she did so she can’t corrupt anyone else.”
Soon after that, fundamentalist Jesus turned his attention to politics. Godlessness seemed to increase by the day, and the temple was surrounded by ghettos. “No wonder this nation is such a mess,” he said. “Look who we have as king! We need someone in place who will uphold godly values. Until then, nothing will change.” At first, fundamentalist Jesus simply told others how to petition for godly laws. But then he mounted his own campaign for the throne. After a few years of struggle, fundamentalist Jesus was crowned king. He immediately put an end to prostitution and outlawed the production and sale of alcohol.
Finally, God told fundamentalist Jesus that it was time to go to the cross. But fundamentalist Jesus was unwilling. “Why should I die for those wretched sinners who won’t even pay to have a pigeon sacrificed for their sins? I worked hard. I gave money to charity. I lived a righteous life. I can’t just throw all that away now!”
Sounds pretty silly, doesn’t it? Yet this is exactly the way many prominent Christians act.
We call ourselves Christians because we think of ourselves as Christ-like. But Jesus isn’t what we expect. He didn’t have the most auspicious beginnings. He ate with prostitutes and tax collectors. He laid hands on the sick and the blind to heal them. He washed his disciples’ feet. He rejected earthly authority and pretentious rule-abiding. He sacrificed his life in the most horrible way imaginable so that the most wretched of us could have eternal life…for free. Which Jesus are you imitating today? Is it fundamentalist Jesus? Or the real Jesus?