"Who Is Jesus Christ to You?"
"Who is Jesus Christ to you?" I was asked this recently. Although it worth contemplating at any time, it strikes me as a particularly appropriate Christmas question. So thought I'd share my answer.
I believe Jesus Christ—past, present and future—is the most important figure in the world . . . and in my life. He is the full human expression of the Divine, and is the way, the truth and the life for all. A real historical figure, Jesus was a Jew who grew up in the dusty, dead-end town of Nazareth in Israel and probably worked for his father in the carpentry business. A carpenter turned preacher, activist, and miracle-worker at age 30, he subverted the ways of injustice, greed, violence, unrighteousness, selfishness, and despair by saying things like "Love your enemies" and "The one with no sin among you cast the first stone" and "Come to me, you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
Threatened by his subversive love for all, the "religio-political industrial complex" sentenced him to death on a cross—the electric chair of the ancient world. He was crucified and buried like a common criminal. But three days later, people found his grave empty. Theories abounded as to what had happened, but some believed he had risen from the dead. I'm among those today who perpetuate this outrageous, wonderful belief, proclaiming to anyone who will listen that life—not death—has the final word.
This image of Jesus is based on the biblical narrative in general and the New Testament Gospels in particular. By faith, honest commitment to the Bible, and reliance on God's presence today (called the Holy Spirit), this Jesus can be known personally, today, enabling all to experience genuine forgiveness, ethical guidance, life purpose, and the power to love all.
But it's not just about a personal connection; knowing Jesus in this way translates into a call to participate in God's mission of peace, justice, reconciliation and salvation in our neighborhoods and beyond—yes, for all, but especially for the poor, oppressed and marginalized among us. Jesus said it best: Love God. Love neighbor. Until God calls it curtains.
A former co-president of ESA, Al Tizon is Executive Minister of Serve Globally, the international ministries arm of the Evangelical Covenant Church in Chicago, IL. This position includes a faculty appointment as Affiliate Associate Professor of Missional and Global Leadership at North Park Theological Seminary also in Chicago.