Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” –John 6:35 (NIV)
I am willing to go out on a limb and bet that every human being has been thirsty at some point in his or her life. In fact, every cat, dog, plant–every living thing–has been thirsty at some point. I’ll wager we’ve all been hungry before too. Otherwise, we wouldn’t need restaurants at rest stops or quick snacks like, my favorite, Slim Jims. In fact, many go hungry every day right here in the bountiful harvest that is the United States. In other parts of the world, dying from hunger is a sad, sick reality.
So it follows, then, that none of us who have been thirsty could possible believe in Jesus, and all of those dead from hunger were without faith. None of us believe this is true. So how do we explain Jesus’ declarations like this scattered throughout the Bible. Some question the faith of all those who have problems. But don’t we all have problems? Some believe those who are not healed through faith healing are to blame for their own lack of faith. But we know anyone playing that game is somewhere between a fraud and a crook.
This is a good time to point out the metaphorical, figurative nature of Jesus’ teachings. This is a man that declared that he would only teach in parables. Jesus is deep, deeper than our souls could ever even imagine, so taking anything he says at face value is a dangerous mistake. When Jesus says he’ll rebuild the temple in three days, he’s talking about his body, not a building. When Jesus says they will fish for people, they throw down their poles and follow him. They do not grab larger poles to go on a human hunt.
Like the Constitution, much debate and some violence is based on arguing what Jesus meant by different teachings. Does “Live by the sword, die by the sword” call for gun control? Then why does Jesus tell his disciples to arm themselves when they set off without him? Any fight could go quote for quote. The Bible is seemingly impossible to navigate with so many seeming contradictions. Why do we even bother? Why not stop fighting over what He meant, since we could never possibly know for sure, and change the way we think of reading The Bible.
What if true Bible study isn’t about just memorizing passages and interpreting stories? What if true Bible study is about getting to know the “character” of Jesus so well that you can just feel what would make Jesus happy with you? Put yourself in his time, in his situations. Really picture it after you get to know Him. Would Jesus be on the side of taking hard-working “foreigners” and sending them back to poverty, oppression, and war in the name of Nationalism? Would Jesus be upset by the Romans giving free health care to impoverished Jews? Would Jesus be disgusted by poor people receiving food rations for free paid for by taxes for the more well-off members of his society?
Of course not. Jesus would welcome the stranger and provide for him to save him from war and starvation. Jesus would bless the actions of the government providing free health care for its citizens. Jesus would actually call for the rich in society to feed the poor, whether required by the government or voluntary. The Jesus I have gotten to know would call social programs progress toward His father’s Kingdom where we all share everything in common.
Aside from the political implications, I’m writing this more about our daily lives–my daily life. Study the Bible well enough to know what would make Jesus proud and what would make Him cry, and you can’t really go wrong. Don’t worry about what Jesus would do–you’re never going to be Jesus. Worry about what Jesus would think. WWJT?
I’ve certainly made Him cry quite a bit throughout my life, but the marvel of grace is that it doesn’t have to end there. You’re not done once you’ve done wrong, no matter how many times you go astray. Sure, we might make Jesus cry, but the next day and the next we can make new choices and He, like a proud papa, will continue to love us and hold us tight. You can still have a chance to make Him proud. And I intend to do just that. Sure we’ll mess up again, but God is like GPS–he’ll just recalculate if you go off course and set you straight again.
If only we let Him.