Lent starts before Valentine's Day this year, and on such years I generally ignore it (who's going to give up chocolates or booze before Valentines?) but lately I've been given to a lot of reflection.
I picked up the book "The Jesus I Never Knew" by Phillip Yancey at the library. I read it cautiously as the back is emblazoned with a Billy Graham endorsement about the best evangelical writer blah blah, and the term evangelical tends to make me nervous. I know that we are all part of the body of Christ, but I tend to associate evangelicals with the kind of Christian I don't want to be-- homophobic, warmongering, insensitive to the plight of the poor-- basically a lot of politics and weird recruitment that I don't consider to be part of my faith.
But Yancey's book completely surprised me. It is an honest analysis, straight from the gospels, about the person of Jesus. It didn't cater to this side of the church or that politics and it didn't pull any punches about the church's many faults. The author owns up to his own prejudices and shortcomings as well (and not in the this- is-how-great-I-am-look-I'm-even-humble way).
It is a completely radical message that most people aren't ready to deal with. Jesus commanded to give all our money to the poor, to turn the other cheek, to be perfect. As often as we try to explain away or rationalize what He said, that's what He said. So what are we doing? How do we call ourselves Christians if we don't follow the teachings of Christ? He wasn't interested in politics or social reform, He was interested in doing everything personally to help others, regardless of expense to Himself.
This doesn't fit with any part of our modern lives.