Am I Really Nothing Without “Knowing” Jesus? If So, That Really Sucks.

This photo is on the front page of the Steamboat paper today. It was taken by Steamboat Pilot photog, John Russell.

This photo is on the front page of the Steamboat paper today. It was taken by Steamboat Pilot photog, John Russell.

I read an article this morning on NPR about the way our brain processes words. The theory used to be we had a special place in the brain for processing language. Like a word module. Recent research (outlined in the article) suggests processing language is a full brain experience. Especially language involving metaphors. The thing is, to make meaning of words; it takes many different parts of our brain. Mainly to visualize our experiences with those words. Pretty cool, huh?

 “My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” – Brennan Manning (but every single person could say this)

I had a great two-hour long phone conversation with a good friend this week. It was a conversation where have of the participants were slap-happy exhausted and the other half was on (legal, I think) drugs. Between the long awkward pauses where we both were trying to form thoughts, there was a lot of good topics covered.

One of those topics was self-defeatism in the Western Christian church. If you have spent any time at all in a church in America, someone of authority has probably told you you are nothing or at least less than stellar without Jesus. I want to tell you right now, they are absolutely wrong. Before I piss off a bunch of people, let me reiterate my faith in Jesus and the Christian God. I love Jesus. I do. I think His radical Love is life changing. I think His radical teachings of putting others ahead of you and being a servant are perfect. I love the way He reaches out to the marginalized. But…

To say someone is nothing without Jesus is ignorant (in my opinion). Do you know how many people I know who are loving, caring and passionate people but do not “know” Jesus or “love the Lord?” Countless. So, let me take this moment to let all of you reading this, I love you. So does Jesus. And you are unique, special, lovely, beautiful – all of those adjectives. And that is how my God sees you. Not as nothing. Not as lame. You get the point.

And if you do identify as a Christian, guess what? He doesn’t love you anymore (or less) than your atheist neighbor. Or your gay neighbor. Or the prostitute working the streets downtown. And so, if you have been in an organized religious situation and someone has told you you are nothing without Jesus, I want you to know My Jesus doesn’t see it that way. And remember, as a wise author once said,

“Real freedom is freedom from the opinion of others.” – Brennan Manning

What they say about who you are as a person is an opinion. How do they know you are nothing without Jesus? They don’t.

Enjoy your weekends. In the words of my man, Bob Goff, “Love others and do stuff.”

*Editor’s note: I realized while writing this my posts are feeling less self-reflective and more opinionated. One of my flaws is I can get cynical towards organized religion. Cynicism usually doesn’t help. Or benefit anyone. In the next few posts, I will be working on this. Hopefully the point is communicated well that I love you and think you are awesome and so does my Jesus.

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7 thoughts on “Am I Really Nothing Without “Knowing” Jesus? If So, That Really Sucks.

  1. Good stuff Nathan. I’m gonna touch on some of this this Sunday when I examine what makes a hero or a zero. We are each someone very unique and special, with the ability to make an eternal and significant contribution to our world. We fail to realize our potential more often than not, but there is still good that comes. Some will not make much, if any contribution, others will make some and some will do it for temporal good and others for eternal good. It’s God great gift to us to give us an opportunity to be eternally significant – its way more than we could ever have with our mere mortal selves.
    Thanks for writing about this – I hate the self-defeatism that has crept into the church! What is needed is humility that says I will take all my good and pour it out in this world for the sake of the next!

    • Thanks, Chris! Looking forward to the message this Sunday. And worship in general! Love what you said about God’s gift to us for an opportunity to be eternally significant. What a profound and beautiful statement. Everyone I have come in contact with at Euzoa has shown God’s unique and radical love. You are shepharding a good herd.

  2. Well sir, I agree with you that many people, if not all, are capable of goodness. You state, “…someone of authority has probably told you you are nothing or at least less than stellar without Jesus.” You say you disagree with the one that makes such a statement, but I would like to suggest that when someone communicates this message, it is only a metaphor describing our need for Jesus and the forgiveness that comes via what he did for us. I have heard many people communicate the same message, and I never understood it to mean that we are horrible, nasty, scum that taste like toe-jam (not that I have tasted it, but I assume that it taste horribly). What I did understand was that we need forgiveness for those sins we have committed.

    • Thanks for the comment. And glad you haven’t tasted toe-jam. Hahaha. Using a defeatist metaphor might be a way to communicate our need for Jesus. However, I still think it is an ineffective (at best) way to communicate His Sacrifice. I am not de-valuing the ultimate sacrifice Jesus paid. I am attempting to communicate (possibly unsuccessfully) as Christians, we should communicate God’s love and the love of Jesus displayed through that sacrifice with love. If I were a non-believer and walked into a church and listened to a message accusing me of being a sinner and the only way to earn forgiveness for my sins was to accept this Jesus guy, who I don’t even know, I am going to struggle with that message. I also do not believe most people are communicating humans to be horrible, nasty, people. I am trying to say God sees us as awesome (sin and all) and loves us. Why don’t we communicate that message? Regardless, I believe in reflecting Jesus as much as possible. The only people I remember Jesus not being absolutely happy with were the “religious” people of the day because of the way they were focused on oppression through rules and laws instead of freedom through love. But, I imagine He loved them a ton anyway. They probably just annoyed Him some.

      • I am 42 and know very little about music of the last decade, yet I did read an article today about Katy Perry and it seems she grew up in a Christian home, and her mindset is that religion was hateful and condemning. Sadly, this is often the case. A professor once told me that he believed people would come to Jesus because of his love more than fear of Hell. And when I think of the “sinners” in Scripture who came to Jesus, they seemed to be attracted to his compassion and forgiveness. Keep preaching love. I’m listening.

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