The Difference Between Jesus and Christianity

At Vision New England’s recent GO ConferenceCarl Medearis said something that I have been contemplating. He interviewed fifty random people at a mall in Boulder, Colorado, asking them, “We’d like to know your thoughts on Christianity.” Fifty out of fifty people responded negatively.

Then, he asked fifty people what they thought about the person of Jesus of Nazareth. All fifty were positive.

While the word “Christian” means literally “little Christ,” there is a major discrepancy in people’s minds between Jesus and Christianity. This is a problem.unnamed (1)

So, what is the difference between Jesus and Christianity? Here are a few of my initial thoughts:

  • Christianity is an institution, but Jesus is a person.
  • Christianity tends to form doctrinal systems and ideologies, whereas Jesus extends and lives in relationship.
  • Christianity says, “Believe this,” but Jesus says, “Come, follow me.”

I am burdened by the fact that people have such different impressions of the Christian Church rather than that of Jesus. During a book signing, I had the opportunity to ask Carl Medearis, “So, what do we do about this?”

He said that he has created entirely separate structures in his mind separating Jesus and the Church. However, I’m not sure that’s the answer, because the Church is called to embody the message of Christ. To separate Jesus from the Church would be the biggest tragedy of all.

What do you think? How can we help the Church look more like Jesus? I’m not exactly sure what the answer is, but I am certain that I want to be a part of this change in the world.

After Carl’s talk, I have a renewed perspective of the power in the person of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote, “I resolved to know nothing but Jesus and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). In these coming months, I am going to devote myself to studying the gospels, the stories describing who Jesus was and what He did. I want to know Jesus so intimately, as both savior and friend, that I can better carry his message in the world.

The gospel is good news because the person of Jesus has reconciled us to himself. While religion divides, Jesus unites. We don’t have to work to make unity happen, because Jesus is the uniter. All each of us has to do is live deeply in our relationship with Christ and point to Him.

 

Boston Globe Article – “Ways of the Cross”

Hi everyone! A “Stations of the Cross” performance that I was in last Friday was featured in the Boston Globe, right on the second page! It’s great to see Jesus getting some press!

I’ve copied it here to keep it archived; check out the article on the Boston Globe site here.

In Copley Square, the Stations of the Cross

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By J.D. Capelouto, GLOBE CORRESPONDENT MARCH 26, 2016

A Duck Boat tour zooms down Boylston Street, tourists craning their necks to gather a glimpse of the scene unfolding before them.

There, in the midst of Copley Square, a figure lies on a cross, looking up in agony. Nearby, three women weep, huddled in sorrow.
On this Good Friday, the Stations of the Cross had come to the heart of the city, with members of Trinity Church in the City of Boston offering an artistic interpretation of the religious devotion.

Six performers, two musicians, and a cleric led a group around the square, acting out the stations at points around the sprawling lawn.

The Stations of the Cross, which outline Jesus’ path to crucifixion, is central to Good Friday services around the world. Trinity incorporated musical and artistic elements, performed amid the bustle of the city and framed by New England’s tallest building.

At each stage, the actors, dressed in black, struck a pose and went into a formation that fit the story for that station. They remained frozen for minutes on end. Using minimal props, the actors relied on their faces and bodies to emote and tell the story. A violinist and drummer played music while 150 spectators said prayers and sang hymns.

The dreary sky and light rain provided an appropriately somber backdrop.
Because Trinity Church sits at the center of Copley Square, the city and its modernity were omnipresent throughout the telling of the story.

As Jesus met his afflicted mother on the side of the square, a Route 9 MBTA bus bound for Broadway disgorged passengers. Jesus met the women of Jerusalem in front of the booth for discounted arts tickets at Bolyston and Dartmouth streets. Onlookers took videos with GoPros. Tourists snapped pictures on their iPhones.

Perhaps the most powerful moment was when Jesus fell for the third time, the ninth station. The actress portraying him sprawled out on the Boston Marathon medallion affixed to the pavement. That medallion maps the Marathon course. She pressed her face to the cold, wet pavement while a violin played a melancholy tune.

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The image evoked the pain the city experienced during the 2013 Marathon bombings, explained the Rev. Rita Powell, the Trinity cleric who led the procession.

“That’s such an important event for Trinity and Old South [Church], and obviously for Boston and beyond,” she said afterward. “It seemed like we just had to honor what was there.”

Powell said her inspiration for the especially stark depiction of the Stations of the Cross came from the deaths of Tamir Rice and Michael Brown, two black teens shot by white police officers.

“Their bodies were just left in the street,” she said, fighting back tears. “I thought, ‘What would it look like if it really was a body on the ground, and we all kind of viscerally know that’s wrong in a deep way?’ ”

When Jesus was crucified almost 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem, a large festival was going on around him, similar to the way in which Boston was humming around Trinity’s procession through Copley Square.

“It was among the people at the time, and here we are again doing it among the people,” said Anne Elvins, 79, who has been a member of the church since she was a teenager. “I just kind of soaked it up, the whole thing.”

BostonServe Photo Gallery

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On October 24, 2015, UniteBoston hosted BostonServe, which encouraged Christians throughout Boston to serve in their neighborhoods together on one day.

It was the first time that UniteBoston held this event – and what a success! There were eleven projects taking place throughout the city.

Together, we can make God’s love for Boston visible in a way that one church cannot accomplish alone.

Check out the photos below to see God’s love in action!

 

Playground Clean-Up and Painting

With Symphony Church at the Jackson-Mann K-8 School

Cleaning up the Playground at the Jackson-Mann K-8 School

Trophy Cleaning and Painting

With Heart Change Fellowship at English High School

Cleaning, Painting, and Carpentry 

With People’s Baptist Church and North River Community Church
At Timilty Middle School

Codman Park Clean-Up

With Global Ministries Christian Church

Codman Park Clean-Up

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Harvard Square Homeless Outreach 

With Journey Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Boston, and others

Harvard Square Homeless Outreach

Visiting Elderly Friends

with the Community of St. Egidio, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Boston, and others

Ramsay Park Clean-Up

With South End churches, Friends of Ramsay Park, and Northeastern University

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Christ, Our Peace

We’re gearing up for 10 Days Boston! Check out the schedule on our website 10dayboston.com.

This is a devotional that I wrote for the 2015 daily devotional published by the national 10 Days movement. Through 10 Days, what an amazing opportunity we have to reconcile differences by remembering Christ as our Peace!

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For He himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. (Ephesians 2:14-16)

What a radical concept Christian unity is! The fact that in Christ, we are one!

This heavenly reality certainly does not appear to be true when we look around the world. We all come from various backgrounds and cultures, life experiences, and we have our own denominational distinctions. Each person sees the world very differently, and because of this, we are inherently prone to disagree with and distance ourselves from those who are culturally, denominationally, and ethnically distinct from us.

Yes, it is easier to worship with people who look like us, act like us, and have the same theological beliefs as us. But as Christians we are called to go beyond this place of comfort to see and value Christ in our neighbor.

Paul acknowledges the difficulty of extending Christian fellowship by exhorting us to “earnestly endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). According to Karl Barth, the Greek word here implies a “full effort of the whole man, involving his will, sentiment, reason, strength, and total attitude”. “Earnestly endeavor” is not simply an outward action of embracing the other, but is first and foremost an inward examination of our hearts.

When you look at your brother or sister, do you see Jesus? What might be hindering your view?

From my experience, one of the chief hindrances to Christian unity is my need to be right. This places walls between me and my brothers and sisters, resulting in a self-righteous attitude. At the end of the day, only God knows those who are His, and so the “right” answer is Jesus’ work and righteousness, extended to all.

During 10 Days Boston, we have the opportunity to step outside our comfort zones to get to know our brothers and sisters from various denominations and backgrounds. As we do this, we learn to respect those that disagree with us. We learn to be confident in the fact that the fellowship of the saints goes beyond a uniform doctrine to involve a unity of Spirit (Eph 4:3) based on the inward spiritual rebirth of those who confess faith in Jesus as Lord. We also learn to value the breadth of Christian traditions rather than promoting a particular expression as having greater spiritual authority over another. Indeed, the deep, difficult work of Christian unity is to respect and honor those with whom we may have significant disagreements.

When we step back, we realize that the one and only thing that makes us one is our revelation of Jesus Christ. It is what Jesus did in his incarnation, sacrifice, and resurrection that has reconciled us to God and to one another, thus forming an inseverable and eternal peace. It’s as we all gaze at Christ’s sacrificial work on the cross that we are one.

Jesus, we confess our tendency to exclude rather than to include, to judge rather than to honor, and to assert our position rather than to love unconditionally. Lord, have mercy.

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Founder’s Memorial Video

This semester, I took a Church History Since the Reformation Class at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary.

One of our assignments was to research the history behind a church-related historical artifact. Amy and I chose to research the Founder’s Memorial in Boston Common, and we wanted to share our findings with the Christian community in Greater Boston by producing a video.

Click on the image below to watch the video and learn more about Boston’s history! Also, we acknowledge that this is only one perspective of the founding of Boston, and we welcome your ideas and input by commenting below :)

Together We Stand With our Persecuted Brothers and Sisters

I’ve been humbled to read about the recent heightened persecution of Christians around the world; how in Egypt, 21 Christians were kidnapped in Libya and beheaded for their faith in Christ.

In fact, since Jesus laid down His life, 43 million Christians have become martyrs.

While in America I have experienced a bit of emotional and verbal chastising due to my faith, it is hard for me to wrap my mind around the pain and mental agony for those who are imprisoned or even killed for their faith. The degree to the persecution that I have experienced in America is not even comparable, causing me to question how I would respond in that same situation. Another part of me wants to disconnect and run away because the pain is too hard to think about. But when I take this is to prayer, I weep, tears streaming down my face… their identification with Christ’s suffering on the cross and the depth of a faith that is tried and true inspires me to live more fully.

In his homily to conclude the week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Francis writes that this is an “Ecumenism of Blood.”

As the body of Christ, our brothers and sisters around the world are part of us – and through prayer we can fulfill the command that “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it.” (2 Cor 12:26)

Whenever a persecuted Christian is asked how we can help, the answer is always, “Pray for us.” Let us unite in prayer for the persecuted church, in the spirit of oneness that Christ asks of us.

Overcoming hatred with love: The power of forgiveness

We’re in the middle of the “Teach Us To Pray” series at Journey Church, where we’re diving into the model that Christ gives us for prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.

I was asked to prepare a sermon at Journey Church based around the verses “Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I had my six-page sermon all prepared, and then the morning I was to share I sensed that I was supposed focus exclusively on forgiveness – the priority for us to not only be in a right relationship with God, but also with one another.

I re-worked my sermon and trusted the Holy Spirit to speak through me – challenging us to forgive the people who have offended us, and giving examples of how we can overcome hatred with love. Many remarked afterwards how this was a message they needed to hear – Praise God!

You can listen to the sermon here: http://jcboston.org/power-forgiveness/

Also, in my sermon, I reference Martin Luther King’s quote “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” This is part of the text of Martin Luther King’s speech “Loving Your Enemies” which is viewable here: http://www.ipoet.com/ARCHIVE/BEYOND/King-Jr/Loving-Your-Enemies.html

Yes, in our efforts to obtain world peace, we must understand that this begins with you and me choosing to overcome hatred with love.