In 2012, I started on a journey that turned my life upside down…or maybe, more accurately, right-side-up! God's invitation seemed reasonable enough (and hardly radical): take a chronological journey through the Gospels looking at Jesus. This journey was to culminate in a Bible study for a group I had been leading for more than twelve years. Since "Christians" claim Jesus as the cornerstone of their faith, this idea seemed almost elementary.
Setting out on the task before me, I quickly learned that most New Testament Bible studies focused on Paul rather than on Jesus. This bothered me, but what I found more disturbing was that, all too often, much of how Western Christianity portrays Jesus hardly looks like the Jesus presented in the Gospels.
During the season of preparation for the Bible study, running with a dear friend, our conversation turned to Jesus. This friend – who had been on staff with a large, well-known, evangelical Christian organization during her college years more than two decades earlier – saw herself as ostracized from the church and mostly NOT believing that Jesus, alone, provides the way to God.
As we ran, my friend shared her perception of Jesus. My heart broke! When she finished, I blurted out, “That’s not Jesus!” And like an opened floodgate, the stories in which I had been immersing myself – the encounters between Jesus and various broken, and often socially and religiously rejected, characters peppering the Gospels – poured out of me. “THIS is Jesus, the real Jesus!” I emphatically declared.
My friend stopped running, turned to me and resolutely stated, “They have hijacked Jesus.”
Thus, a slogan was born.