Whenever someone says that they believe in Jesus, I always wonder to myself, Which Jesus?
What I call “Easy Jesus” is a common alternative to the real Jesus in my culture and context. Easy Jesus is, of course, easy to believe in because he only teaches what I already believe to be true. There are multiple versions of Easy Jesus. There is both a progressive Easy Jesus and a conservative Easy Jesus.
Here are four signs that you might believe in Easy Jesus:
1. Can’t admit that I could be wrong.
Easy Jesus tells me that I am right about everything because he believes and teaches everything that I already believe. This makes Jesus easy because he can never correct the areas in my life where I am not conformed to the real Jesus.
I grew up in a theologically conservative setting, where racism and discrimination against the poor were common. However, if you called out the racist or discriminating behavior, those responsible for the infractions would disagree—because they knew what the Bible says. They simply could not entertain the idea that they were wrong about something, even though their actions proved otherwise.
Therefore, if you cannot conceive that you could be wrong in how you are living out the words, teachings, commands, and example of Jesus in everyday life, then you really need to consider the possibility that you believe in Easy Jesus.
2. Holding an oversimplified understanding of evil.
Because Easy Jesus believers never challenge where others in the know might be wrong, the problem is always perceived to be with other people. The problem with the world is “the evil people, on the other side.”
But Paul wrote: “There is no one righteous, not even one . . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:11, 23).
We only begin to escape being evil by submitting to Jesus, by imitating and obeying him as his disciple. But even then we realize that we are still at war with the residual evil of our fallen selves which has yet to completely die.
If I believe that the primary problem of evil in the world is “the evil people out there, doing evil things” and not the evil that still exists within me, then I really need to consider the possibility that I believe in Easy Jesus.
3. Playing the victim.
Because Easy Jesus always agrees with me and tells me that the problem in the world is “the evil people out there” instead of the “evil person inside,” Easy Jesus tells me that I am the victim.
Yet the real Jesus stated:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness. . . Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven. . .” (Matt. 5:10-12).
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. . . Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. . . They will treat you this way because of my name. . . ” (John 15:18-21).
Paul also wrote:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Rom. 8:28-30).
Disciples of Jesus never play the victim. We only experience the sufferings of Jesus as God works in all circumstance and relationships in order to conform us into his image.
When I read Scripture, it seems to clearly state that all believers, in all places, at all times, will suffer for the sake of Jesus in order to be conformed into his image by being conformed to his suffering.
4. Looking for easy discipleship.
I have seen quite a few pastors, church leaders, and other believers in my culture and context accept the Scriptural arguments for being and making disciples of Jesus; only to then fail to implement true disciple making, because they try to make it easy.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
What Easy Jesus offers is no yoke or burden at all. Yes, Jesus’ yoke and burden are easy and light in comparison to the burden and the yoke of the Jewish Law that his first century audience was under; but coming to him and learning from him is still a yoke and a burden that must be borne.
Easy Jesus teaches that we need not carry any burden, that following Jesus should cost us nothing, and that we need not suffer persecution for his sake. Easy Jesus deceives us by promising to allow us to follow Jesus without ever having to be corrected by Jesus, without ever having to deal with our own fallenness, without ever having to suffer for his sake, and by making discipleship easy and effortless.
The real Jesus promised:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24).
Will you follow the real Jesus by imitating and obeying him as his disciple?