The Five Faces of Christianity

manyfacesA few days ago, there was a well-publicized terrorist act in which an American journalist was brutally beheaded. The next day, our Secretary of State rushed to a microphone to inform us that this was not “the real face of Islam.” While I could write an entire series on that statement alone, I’ll leave that up to my more political brethren.

John Kerry’s carefully chosen words, however, did spark an entirely different line of thought in my meager brain. What if the tables were turned and a Christian had perpetrated some dastardly deed? Would some dignitary stand up and unabashedly pronounce that it was inarguably not the face of Christianity on display?

“My quick answer to that is, no.”

My quick answer to that is, no. No one would bother to do that. The reason is a positive one. The reason is that no one would feel the need.

No one would feel the need because everyone understands that this kind of act is not the face of Christianity. Everyone understands this because Christianity has proven over the past 2000 years that her face is totally different. Hence, she would not need any outside defense to reinforce that assertion.

If that is true (and I think it is), it begs another question. What IS the face of Christianity? Who are we? What do we look like? How are we generally perceived?

We are multifaceted, multicultured, and multigenerational. We have myriads of theologies, tenets, denominations, and sects. We come in all colors, worship styles, and daily life practices. So what is our face?

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Are we known as Christian fundamentalists? Are we legalists? Are we theological liberals, or conservatives? Are we known as Bible thumpers or proponents of the social gospel? Are we known by our TV ministries, our work among the poor and homeless, or our hospitality to strangers?

The fact is, we are known by all these faces and more. So what is our face? Do we even have one?

The answer to that (in my estimation) is, yes we do. It is quite simply the face of Jesus. It is his face we must show. Our lives and practices must reveal his persona. We can, of necessity, be who we are; but we must learn to get out of the way enough for people to see the real Jesus.

“The Real Jesus…”

JESUS OF NAZARETH -- Pictured: Robert Powell as Jesus -- Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
JESUS OF NAZARETH — Pictured: Robert Powell as Jesus — Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

The real Jesus is the one whose “love covers a multitude of sins.” He’s the one who prayed that we would be united, just as he and the Father are united. He’s the one who told the Pharisees that he had other sheep not of their fold, and that he would call them and they would hear his voice.

We can discuss (even argue about) our different theologies, practices and styles. It seems to me, however, that the arguments stop at the foot of the cross. The blood of the Savior washes all who seek him there, regardless of our differences. It’s his face we must show the world.

 

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