I decided to read “Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time” by Marcus J. Borg. I would like to start this by saying, I will be reading this book again to be able to research his notes further. Borg ends each of his chapters with notes that support the context of each chapter. I loved that Borg approached this book similar to a research paper. Many books regarding spirituality are typically written with quotes or context from the related religious text but Borg spent a great deal of time researching his points to share his thoughts with us. I believe this is more valuable than an open letter about meeting Jesus because I was needing to find Jesus again, you would have to provide someone like me with concrete support. Simply saying Jesus is real or giving a simple quote would not be enough for me as a reader. For this, this book was amazing. On the contrary, the notes only tell so much, and I would like to dig more into his notes to connect them to his statements.
Borg writes this book as his perception of Jesus shifted from his childhood to adulthood. As this shift began, he became agnostic. He was someone who believed that nothing is known or can be known of the existence of God. Realistically, he was almost atheist because he learned about the history of Jesus compared to the Jesus we know of in Christianity. This curated the opportunity for him to lose faith in God and Jesus. But, through some experiences, Borg was forced to double back on his questions about his faith. Because of this, he was able to reconnect with God and Jesus but when he reconnected, his old views of Jesus had changed.
Borg sees Jesus as a very different person from the Jesus he had known as a child. He uses different stories to paint the picture of who Jesus is to him. Some of these stories’ themes include the return of Israel through the idea that Jesus accepts those that are typically not accepted such are marginalized peoples. This reminded me of the story of Ruth in how it perpetuates the idea that God is for everyone, not just the chosen people.
Also, the idea that Jesus shines the light on forgiveness and acceptance. Of the themes used to show Jesus’s character, Borg explains that this theme is the one religious institutions hold on to the most. The last theme is that Jesus is a liberator, he free’s us from the things that are meant to oppress us. I struggled with this theme a bit because as much as I believe this to be true, I only believe it to be true when it comes to intangibles regarding ourselves. Through Jesus, we may find freedom from suffering within ourselves, but Jesus has not mitigated oppression in the world today.
By using the themes listed above Borg was able to narrow down his view on who Jesus is to him and maybe to all of us. First, Jesus is a teacher. What does Jesus teach us? Unlike what we are usually taught, where we must follow and agree with the rules of Christianity or face smite and punishment, Borg introduces a version of Jesus that is the opposite. This Jesus teaches the Spirit and compassion. He teaches that God is not the judge, jury, and persecutor but that he is compassionate and loving. This idea of Jesus makes understanding the stories of Jesus better.
Borg also gives us the view of Jesus as a person of Spirit. This is the biggest wow factor of the book for me. I have a friend who believes in God but also questions Jesus as being God. I found this idea of Jesus to much better approach than both my friend and I had about Jesus. For me, a very logical person this makes understanding Jesus as the son of God better. He explained this idea of Jesus is more of the spirit of Jesus rather than a matter-of-fact version of Jesus. In this way, we learn to experience God rather than the traditional way of simply understanding the things taught to us about God.
Borg also spends a lot of time focusing on compassion in various forms when thinking of Jesus. I do not think using compassion as a way to describe or discuss Jesus is far from the Jesus we are typically taught but he narrows done on the ideas of compassion. Much like the passages I have read in many books by great philosophers which explore the ideas of God, God is often used to measure society and humanity.
For Borg, compassion is not simply something we must use for ourselves, but it should be viewed as a social benefit. That being so, this should be reflected across the board in our society, although, it is not. Also, when considering compassion, we must escape our standard of creating a black and white version of our own perception of what is moral and what is not. We must simply be compassionate in determining this instead of immediately dismissing this as not moral simply because we say so. I thought of the story of Abraham, he was asked to sacrifice his son for God. This morally would be wrong but spiritually was the right thing to do. would I discredit Abraham as not being righteous for planning to kill his son?
Although I believe Borg had some parts I did not inherently agree with, this book overall gave me an understanding that I did not know I needed or that I did not know I could even find. This was a great read which I plan on reading again so that I can dig more into his notes to expand my own reasonings on Jesus. Despite not loving Jesus, I always have questions. Maybe I did meet Jesus again through reading this.