Recently I’ve had a few conversations with some friends who are curious about Jesus. I mean what the heck is up with that guy, right? Why do some people really seem to love the dude? Why does it seem like politicians and other leaders are always trying to appeal to him so much?
In our day and age talking with people who are curious about Jesus is actually somewhat remarkable considering how bad a job those who identify with him tend to represent him. At the same time it does makes sense for folks to be intrigued by Jesus given how influential and polarizing a character he has been over the last few thousand years. Simply put there aren’t any other figures in history that have had such an incredible impact on our world. His life and teachings have a profound power, one that I can’t quite explain, but am still drawn to daily.
So for anyone who’s curious about this first century Jew from a no-name outpost of the Roman Empire and who ended up turning our world upside down, this post if for you. Here are a few ways to engage with, and maybe even encounter the one they call the Christ.
Distinguish Jesus from his followers.
I hate that I have to say this, but I do. In American culture, Jesus has been co-opted by countless causes for the sake of political or financial gain and it’s important to first separate Jesus from those who claim Jesus. Admittedly, that includes me. If you want to know more about a person, don’t look at just what other people say about them, spend time with the actual person!
Read the accounts of Jesus
The Bible is at the same time an incredibly complicated book and very straightforward. In Christian tradition the Bible culminates and centers on the person of Jesus. Everything else is basically context. So in one way it’s pretty simple in that the Bible tells the story of God’s redemption of our world in Christ. The complicated part of the Bible is that it was written thousands of years ago in multiple languages and cultures using metaphors and stories that are often buried underneath the weight of time and translation. That said, to engage with the focal point of the Bible (Jesus) is not very hard. If you’re curious about him, I’d recommend spending some time in what are called the gospels (good news). Those books are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and they each give an account of Jesus from a different perspective. Let your imagination find yourself in the stories. Read them like they’re true. Just hang out with the Jesus of the Bible and see what happens.
Spend some time in prayer and wrestling
One of the things I love the most about faith is that it’s not static. It’s a constant process where I have doubts and questions and I wrestle. For me, my sense is that I’m wrestling with something outside of myself, a higher power, or maybe even God. In some ways, that’s all prayer is. Letting your mind talk with whatever it is that put us all here. Again, for me that’s God. My prayers range from being frustrated with God to feeling like I can’t thank God enough to asking God to intervene in a particular situation. Somehow in this process I feel a deeper connection to Christ. It’s important to note that doubts and questions are completely appropriate if you feel like experimenting with this Jesus character. In fact, if you read some of the stories about him and don’t have questions or doubts you might be missing how provocative they actually are.
Hang out with some people who seem to like Jesus
I know I said that you should distinguish between Jesus and his followers, but what I meant was that you should first get to know him before other people get you off track. Most Jesus curious people are actually really sincere. They are drawn to and changed by his teachings about grace, forgiveness, love, and also by his death and resurrection which he said were for the sake of the world. If you share space with people who are also curious about Jesus you might see some interesting things. This is where church might be helpful. I know that it’s not that common to go to church nowadays, but if you do check it out, you’ll find some ancient traditions and meet some lovely people who may very well help in your curiosity about Jesus.
Ask lots of questions
I can’t stress that enough. If you’re curious, ask questions. Then keep asking them. Make sure not to ask the person who acts like they know it all. They usually don’t. When we’re asking questions about faith or God, we’re asking questions that more often than not open up more questions. And sometimes it’s in this process that we encounter God.
This week a friend asked me why Christians say that Jesus died for our sins. That’s a great and honest question. Even after I’ve been learning about and walking with Jesus for a few decades, I still have lots of questions. Hopefully you’ll know some people who can help you stay curious and keep the sense of wonder. If you don’t- let’s hang.
Read some stuff
There are tons of books about Jesus out there, so where do you start? I’d recommend a few, but I’d also say that you should ask around for yourself too. I don’t agree with all the theology (opinions about God) of all these authors, but I have read these books and think they’re awesome:
Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
What We Mean When We Talk About God, Rob Bell
Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning
Crazy Love, Francis Chan
Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller
Accidental Saints, Nadia Bolz-Webber
Keep exploring and learning. Stay curious. If you encounter anyone who tries to pressure you into their style of Jesus, know that they usually mean well and just want you to experience what they’ve experienced. I get how this can be off putting. Brush it off because this is your journey- we each have our own path, and I think if we’re looking for it, we’ll find Jesus with us there.