I was raised in a community of believers in rural Scotland in the 1970s. They were are an earthy, beatnik group of folks, and the Christ they taught me was much the same: a long hair, a wanderer, the leader of a scruffy band of rejects, who preached about love, peace, and forgiveness. He stuck it to the man, stood up for the poor, and defied the religious institutions. This is the Jesus I was raised to know. But, as I grew up and and traveled the world I met many folks who knew Him in a different way.
Living in the southern United States for 11 years I met many redneck believers and the Jesus they described to me was like a righteous cowboy. An “old rugged cross” savior, who forgave drinkin’ and gamblin’, who brought close the prayers of their mamas, and reminded them to say grace before supper. A Johnny Cash savior.
In New Orleans amongst the older black population I met many beautiful souls – Christ was the ground and foundation of their lives. Their heartfelt prayers for their children. Their constant hope in long suffering and poverty. Their pride in their heritage, their hope for equality. He was embodied in church and community – long Sunday mornings of hooping and hollering and singing your lungs out as the sweaty preacher shouted “Amen!” and the congregation resounded the “Amen!” back!
To my many transexual and gay friends Christ is the God who does not reject them, but knows and loves them just as they are. I remember my first transvestite friend in New Orleans, he/she told me he could find the courage to get out of bed in the morning because he knew Jesus loved him/her. To my friend who was a stripper Jesus was the kind man who accepted her when all other men abused her. To my friends in the middle-east Christ was the God who drew close and forgave. To my evangelical friends he is an emotional experience in a dry stale world.
For a long time it was difficult for me, this ministers daughter from rural Scotland to accept the many faces of Christ I met in others, but now I am so glad I have. God is infinite and he reaches us in an infinite number of ways. If he is okay with us, why can’t we be okay with one another? Whether Jesus was a historical figure or the Son of God he has reached people across the planet and across time in an incredible way time and time again. Many people hate in the name of God, but I’ve met many, many from such varying walks of life who love and hope because of God. I hope that better part of our humanity wins out in the end.
And that’s my thoughts this Easter Sunday morn!