The Jesus Illusion

The Jesus Illusion

Calvary, by Octavio Ocampo

I have this painting hanging on my living room. It is big 32″ wide x 46″ tall and fills a wall. It is not not the real thing but a print that I have had for several years. There are many illusions in this painting, the double Jesus being the most obvious. There are crosses of saints, faces of martyrs, eyes of God, peace of God as a dove, and the artist,Octavio Ocampo, appears in the work (lower right). He represents all of humanity. On the cloth robe on the lower right is a representation of the cloth pressed to Christ’s face by Veronica on which his countenance was indelibly imprinted. It shows Veronica’s face crying in anguish for the pain that Christ had to endure on the cross. Humanity in all it’s intelligence, beauty and flaws is nothing more than a man staring at the sacrifice of God.

Graphic, yes. Gothic and dark, yes that too. Not how I usually represent myself and my faith. I focus worship as light and love centered, rather than condemnation, as a lot of Christians lean toward. Many Christian faiths make sin and retribution the center of their message. That message sounds a little something like, “If you want to be saved, accept our church doctrine, do not think for yourself, and reject all other forms of religion.” They say this as they neatly tuck God in a box that fits their doctrine of religion. Most of the time this set of rules is based on tradition, not scripture. I hear them say, “That is how we have always done it.” or “You must believe this way or you are going to hell.”

I guess the rest of us are just damned. That’s fine with me. I would rather hang out with the sinners than those who perceive themselves better than the rest of us because they sit in a church pew every time the doors are open. These are often the same people who look down their nose at you in the real world and refuse to speak to you because you are divorced, gay, poor, homeless, or (fill in the blank with your sin of choice they decide to judge you on).

For Bible followers, not religion followers, God is love. Jesus is God’s physical form. His mission on earth was that of servitude out of love. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, he centered his life around loving the unlovable.

The Jesus illusion prevalent in Christian churches today is that all a person has to do is say the words and they are accepted. Christians often ignore the other parts, about serving others. True, the Bible says that if you “believe in the beloved son of God you will be saved.” They accept this and think, “Whew, I’m good. Show up on Sunday and live how I want the rest of the week. Got my I love Jesus shirt, listen to my Christian radio, take my kids to church. Oh no, I don’t want to help out at the homeless shelter, can I just write a check?”

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37–39)

Love. It is all about love.

For Jesus it was not good enough pretending to love, people had to live love through daily interactions with others. We must humble ourselves in a way that allows us to truly understand who we are, what we deserve, and what Jesus gave up so that we can be free to love unconditionally.

Don’t fool yourself in thinking that salvation is found in that church building, in the water of Baptism or in a theology forced on you. Salvation is found solely in the love of God manifested in the person Jesus. That love is lived out through our hearts and hands everyday. Our salvation is in the reflection of that love through us. We are worth nothing, deserve nothing. We are nothing more than the dust created by God’s breath.

From that love comes forgiveness.

Why do I have a dark picture of Jesus on the cross hanging in a prominent place in my home? Why when I know God did not leave Jesus on that cross?

For me…unimportant unworthy me, God came down from heaven by the power of the Holy Spirit.

For my sake he suffered death and was buried. For my ugly, evil, lowly, dirty, disgusting sin, He was beaten, tortured, hung on a cross for me..on my knees in shame at this thought, head bowed.

He did this for me. I never want to forget.

~Lori O’Gara

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