Is Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition, a Marxist? Since he is now being touted as a likely future prime minister for the UK, it seems quite important to know. But if I got the chance to ask him the question, I would need to be very sure what both he and I understood by the description, ‘Marxist’.
A small article in the Guardian this week described the different Karl Marxes who exist in the common consciousness. There’s the Karl Marx vilified by right-wing politicians for sending Russians to the Gulag. There’s the more literary Marx directing our gaze toward structural causes rather than individual agencies. And, of course, there’s the left-wing political Marx who inspired the communist movement. And many, shades of Marx images between.
The same problem applies to Jesus. There’s the radical Jesus, the historical Jesus, the contemplative Jesus, the feminist Jesus, Jesus of the Sacred Heart not to mention the Jewish Jesus, the Muslim Jesus….and so many more. So, when people talk about Jesus, it is vital to know which Jesus they are talking about.
This week, various people have been talking publicly about Jesus. Adventist leaders have issued their own statement about ‘uplifting Jesus’. This document asks questions about the orthodoxy of other Adventists who claim to exalt the name of Jesus. It equates ‘uplifting Jesus’ with following his teachings ‘in ways consistent with His propositional revelation in Scripture’. The word ‘uphold’ and ‘exalt’ is used often. To me, ‘uplift’ is a word for spacemen or lingerie saleswomen. It suggests that somehow Jesus is a product that needs a marketing boost. I thought maybe it was from the King James Bible. It does not exist there. It’s a particularly ‘churchy’ word that means ‘making yourself heard’.
Another group of people speaking about Jesus are the 23 diverse American religious leaders who this week signed a manifesto entitled, ‘Reclaiming Jesus’. The manifesto asks the question, ‘Who is Jesus Christ for us today?’ – probably the most important question any of us can ask. Their document uses the format, ‘We believe….and therefore, we reject….and we are concerned about’. It provides a template to help me make thoughtful connections between what I believe with what I reject and what I’m concerned about.
There’s one other person I heard talking about Jesus this week. It was a woman reacting to graffiti scrawled on a bridge somewhere. The graffiti said, ‘Jesus loves everyone’. “Jesus is not very perceptive, is he?” said the woman!
So – who is Jesus for me today? I believe he is one who will not be owned by any group of people who talk about him as if he belongs to them. I also believe that he is perceptive enough to offer costly (not cheap!) love to everyone whether they try to own him or not, whether they truly believe in him or not, whether they understand him or not, whether they limit him or not, whether they crucify him or not.
How he does love and accept all of us is a mystery to me. But I believe that if I try my clumsy best to accept God's love and accept the unlovable in myself and others, I will find a mysterious way of knowing Him.