Several years ago while living in Dallas, I was on a date with my wife and was walking past a storefront, only to discover Jesus staring back at me—a bobblehead Jesus, that is. I had seen bobbleheads of NFL players and rock stars before, but I didn’t realize that Jesus had reached bobblehead status! Fast-forward a few years to when I was kicking off our Christmas series at our church. Want to know who was helping me preach that morning? Yep, bobblehead Jesus standing on a stool (I am happy to report that I was neither fired nor struck by lightning). To help make the Jesusanity versus Christianity distinction more concrete, I read out loud to our church the ad from the back of the box he was packaged in:
The name Jesus means God saves. The term Christ is a title for anointed of God. For Muslims and some Jews, Jesus was a prophet. Buddhists say he was enlightened. Hindus call him an Avatar (the incarnation of a deity in human form). And Christians hail him as the Son of God. Although he is understood in many different ways, everyone seems to agree that he was an extraordinary man.
Now I would take “extraordinary,” but is that what Jesus was after? Today in our thoroughly pluralistic culture, Jesusanity is what is most often practiced. Jesus is respected as one of the great religious leaders — even the best religious leader of all time — but he does not have unique status. For many people today, both inside and outside the church, Jesus is not unique; he is simply one among many. Respected? Yes. Street cred? Check. But if we take the New Testament documents seriously, Jesus wasn’t aiming for respect. His messianic mission was far larger than that.
In stark contrast to Jesusanity, Darrell Bock summarizes that Christianity “involves the claim that Jesus was anointed by God to represent both God and humanity in the restoration of a broken relationship existing between the Creator and his creation.” Only Jesus the Messiah can address humanity’s deepest need, the forgiveness of our sins so that we can be reconnected with God and enjoy the eternal kind of life we were made for (Mark 2:1–12; 8:27–30; John 17:3). In Christianity, Jesus is worshiped; in Jesusanity, he is simply respected. The difference could not be more important for our world. I dive into more of the implications of this mindset here.
Related Post: Are the Gospels Full of Contradictions?