“Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” The relevance of this question of Jesus to our own day was brought out by Elizabeth Sendek from Colombia. She listed a catalogue of identities of Jesus that people derive in Latin America from the different impressions of him that people take from the different Christian groups whom they encounter. The traditional Catholic image: Jesus is a baby who became a martyr and whose only comfort is in his mother. He was born and he was crucified. This is what we are to remember at Christmas and Good Friday . Little attention is paid to Easter and the fact that he rose again. The cross must be a personal experience – living passively in the middle of deprivation, loss, oppression etc. To the Liberal: Jesus is the good teacher and those who follow him become enlightened. To the Liberationist; Christ is the liberator with an ideological commitment to the poor and the oppressed. He is even the Guerrilla prepared to engage in violent struggle to set people free.
These mutate among Protestants too: Jesus never was born, never dies, only resurrects! These are not real events that happened to a real person, but merely the means of atonement and forgiveness to be experienced in a standard formula. Jesus is the Cosmic Christ who inspires power encounters that confound the principalities and powers. He is the miracle worker who fulfills all our desires and ambitions, ensures that we are comfortable and do not have to suffer. He calls to political power to end marginalization and effect social acceptance.
Although these vignettes came from Latin America, we all need to be aware of the fact that the Christ people know is the one we show in our lives and institutions not just in our well chosen words.