So… do you know Jesus?

I know better than to assume everyone who browses TXAB is Christian.

I learned better on other blogs I’ve done. ’Cause nonchristians piped up. There’s a certain personality type—the class clown, the noisy guy in the theater, the guy in the nightclub who wears way too much musk, the Facebook friend who over-comments on everything (which, I gotta admit, is sometimes me) —who can’t go anywhere without making their presence known. If you prefer to go unnoticed, these are the people you never wanna befriend; they’ll always embarrass you. And on blogs, they’re the sort who wanna make sure the blogger (i.e. me) knew they visited. Sometimes with a polite note, and sometimes by flinging poo like a chimpanzee.

On blogs, sometimes they’re the troll who comments, in case any Christians are reading, “You suckers do realize all this religious stuff is [synonym for dooky]: Jesus is dead, the bible is science fiction, and churches are scams to separate the feeble-minded from their money.” Or the guy who emails me 10 pages of out-of-context or non-sequitur “corrections” to the article I posted. Or the pagan who instant-messages me about how she’s struggling to reconcile my statements with the superficial Buddhism which she’s convinced she can practice alongside Christianity.

I get all sorts. If they’re truly interested in Jesus, I’m not gonna drive ’em away. On the contrary: I’m always gonna try to drive ’em towards. Namely towards Jesus.

Years ago I participated in a multifaith synchroblog. (A synchroblog is where a bunch of bloggers write on the same topic. Then most of us read each other’s pieces to see their take on the topic. Or not; some of us only want more people to read our blogs, and are using it to get clicks.) In my piece I stated upfront I was trying to introduce my pagan visitors to Jesus. I didn’t want any of ’em thinking I had a hidden, ulterior motive; plenty enough Christian phonies out there already. My motives are gonna be nice and obvious.

Still are. If you don’t know Jesus, let me introduce you.

Good news, everybody!

Sometimes it’s called the gospel; sometimes the evangel. Both words mean “good news”—either in ancient English or ancient Greek. ’Cause you should consider it good news. If you don’t, either we Christians did a crappy job of presenting it to you, or we taught you some other thing’s the gospel. Or you don’t believe us. Or all three.

The good news, according to Christ Jesus, is God’s kingdom has come near. Mk 1.15

What’s God’s kingdom? (Or heaven’s kingdom?—the terms are interchangeable.) In short, God wants to be our king. He wants a personal, individual relationship with every person on the planet. He wants us to be his people, and he our God. Ex 6.7 He wants us to be his children, and he our father. Yep, exactly like he’s Jesus’s father: He wants to be tight with us, same as Jesus is tight with him.

Most of us humans seriously doubt we can have any such relationship with God. Mostly ’cause we figure God’s so cosmic and alien. He’s an almighty spirit, the creator of the universe, and so absolutely good—most of us figure if we actually encountered God’s power and goodness, it’d blow us up like a hamster in a microwave. Jg 13.22 And y’know, it actually might. Ex 33.20 So we assume we’re too unworthy to interact with him, and go through a whole bunch of convolutions to get ourselves righteous before we dare approach him. Before we pray, we do a bunch of acts of penance. Or we promise a ton of good deeds. Or we vow togive up bad habits, or give up beloved things, or otherwise try to appease God first. We believe we just can’t go to him as-is. We’re too messed up.

So when Jesus tells us the kingdom has come near, what he means is we actually don’t have to bridge the gap between God and us. God already did that. He became human—namely Jesus—and lived among us humans. Jn 1.14 And they didn’t die!

Nope, God’s not distant from us. He’s right here. If you want him, here he is.

“But we’re not worthy!” Not a problem. God forgave you.

Yeah, our evildoing, our sins, mean we owe him big time: He’s had to clean up our messes, and put right what we’ve bent, folded, spindled, and mutilated. We oughta make up for our sins—and we’ve racked up so many. Really, we deserve death, for sin kills. Ro 6.23 But actually, God took care of that. After becoming human, he got killed. (Seems people couldn’t handle how he kept acting as if he’s God or something.) So—in a way we Christians still don’t entirely understand, and debate about—he applies his death to our sin, and considers our debt paid. We might still have to make things right with one another, but with God… we’re good. Having a relationship with him no longer has any hurdles.

Seriously. And it’s a fact that’s hard for lots of people to accept. Including Christians. Across the board, humanity believes in karma, the idea we only receive good (or only should receive good) if we’ve merited it with our good deeds; otherwise the universe is out of whack, and will eventually balance things out. Christians believe in karma too, and some of us still try to make ourselves worthy of God… as if that’s even possible. After a lifetime of buggering up, we’re gonna amend things with God? Not remotely possible.

That’s why we need God to do it for us. It’s where faith comes in: We gotta trust Jesus when he says God really, truly wants relationship with us. If we don’t trust Jesus, it’s our own fault when our relationships with God suck: He’s not the one with the hangups. That’d be us.

So since we can have relationships with God, he can empower us to live productive, fruitful lives. Not materially fruitful, i.e. rich, although in certain cases that’s a side effect. But spiritually fruitful: We become better people. We sin less. We’re more loving, more kind, more patient, more joyful. We can tap God’s supernatural power and perform miracles. No, really. Hang out with the right Christians and I guarantee you’ll see some.

What’s more, by taking out sin, Jesus also took out death. He proved this by himself coming back from the dead: He’s alive. Temporarily in heaven, there’s gonna be a day Jesus comes back to earth, to rule God’s kingdom in person. Not metaphorically; for real. And the day he does, every Christian, every God-follower throughout history, is getting raised from the dead just like Jesus was. 1Co 6.14 And we’re not dying again: This is eternal life.

This is the good news.

Hard to believe? Okay.

Yeah, in order to believe the gospel, there are certain things we gotta believe in the first place. Like God’s very existence: If you don’t believe in any such being, the rest will be pure myth. It’s the world’s nicest bedtime story, with the world’s biggest happy ending, but you won’t believe a word of it.

Likewise resurrection. This was the ancient Greeks’ hangup: Their philosophy, which they were steeped in since childhood, taught ’em matter is bad (it decays, y’know) and spirit is good. So when you die, you become pure spirit—and that’s good. You wanna be pure spirit. You wanna live in Elysium (the good Greek afterlife) forever. And plenty of people nowadays believe the very same thing: When you die, you go to heaven and live with God and the angels. Maybe even become an angel yourself. (Actually you don’t; they’re another species. It’s like imagining you go to heaven and become ponies. I know; now you wanna become a pony. Stop that.) But the last thing people want is to get put back in a body—it sounds so limiting.

Likewise in Jesus being God. Most people easily accept the idea of Jesus being a great man, or moral teacher. Some are okay with him being divine—but only if it’s true we can become divine just like he did. Actually we can become perfect like him, and that’s one of God’s goals. But Jesus didn’t become God; he was God long before he ever became human. Jn 1.1 But if we can’t believe this, it’s hard to accept the rest.

This is where faith comes in. Faith is simply another word for trust: We trust Jesus. We take his word for it that everything he teaches is true. We figure, “I’m not sure I believe all of this. Or any of it. But I’m gonna try it and see what happens. If there’s anything to it, stuff’s gonna happen. I’ll hear God talk to me. I’ll see him do miracles. If there’s not, if it’s all rubbish, nothing will happen, nothing’ll change; it’ll fall apart. So here goes nothing.” And we take the leap.

And stuff happens. Try it. You’ll see.