1) Jesus Avoided Labels
In fact, a large part of his ministry was breaking down preconceived titles, trying to bring about a world where there would be no differentiation between Jew or Gentile. He promoted the idea that loving God trumped racial, ethnic, social, religious, and political identities.
This doesn’t mean we’re simply “all the same underneath.” Jesus recognized that people had distinct differences, on both a personal and communal level. He embraced unique cultures and traditions and utilized them to reveal his glory, recognizing and valuing diverse identities while simultaneously building a Christ-centered community, where customs and traditions were integrated into an all-inclusive relationship.
2) Jesus Avoided Theological Certainty
Within the New Testament, the people Jesus seemingly condemns the strongest — and most frequently — are the ones who have the greatest amount of theological certainty — the Pharisees.
The spiritual leaders, the most prestigious religious institutions of the their day, the ones who were the most confident, the most sure and vocal about theology, were flat our wrong — and Jesus called them out on it. This should be a warning to us all.
Much of Jesus' teaching was confusing, complex, and often created more questions than answers, and that's OK. Even His own disciples were constantly misinterpreting his words, and they were continually asking Jesus for clarification and understanding. Knowledge and wisdom were not the disciples’ strong suit, but they followed Jesus despite their fears, doubts, defeats and failures — and so should we.
3) Jesus Was Groundbreaking
Jesus broke all of the rules and thought WAY outside the box. He associated with tax collectors, zealots, prostitutes, Samaritans, and people who were considered "unclean" and social outcasts. He challenged social norms and turned the church of his day upside down.
Jesus was considered outrageous, sacrilegious, absurd, weird, shocking and even sinful. This begs the question: How would Jesus shock us today?
It's hard to break out of our comfort zones, and every generation has their own spiritual convictions that they assume are right, holy, and true. But questioning our beliefs isn't wrong, and as the Bible shows us, following God's will is often countercultural, even to the most devout followers who think they have everything figured out. Do we have everything figured out?
Maybe it’s time to rethink everything — just like the disciples eventually learned to do.
4) Jesus Believed Love Trumped Theology
Over and over again, Jesus repeatedly reveals the redeeming power of love. Within a culture and world that was steeply embedded with a strong concept of what was considered right and wrong, Jesus throws everything off by promoting love over rules, forgiveness over revenge, humility over power, and redemption over bondage.
Love saved murderers, thieves, the sick, the hurting, the hateful, the violent, the lost, and everyone Jesus came across. Jesus' love overcame religious traditions, societal expectations, national laws, cultural fears, and everything else that stood in the way.
What is keeping us from showing Christ-like love to others? Are our political leanings, denominational ties, theological beliefs, social networks, job expectations, apathy, pride, ignorance, or hate preventing us from loving?
Christians, especially around the blogosphere, are infatuated with 'Millennial Christianity,' but in many ways ‘Millennial Christianity’ is simply a modern-day attempt at reconstructing the example of Christ. This radical, new, and "modern" version of faith is actually, well, old.
This is why people from all walks of life, of all ages, from various cultures and demographics, are identifying with 'Millennial Christianity.' Because when they see it, they see Christ.
Stephen Mattson has contributed for Relevant Magazine and the Burnside Writer's Collective, and studied Youth Ministry at the Moody Bible Institute. He is now on staff at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minn. Follow him on Twitter @mikta.
Image: Illustration by God's Politics Editor, all images pulled from Shutterstock.com