If you’ve clicked on this page, I’m assuming that you’re interested in knowing more about Jesus (p) and what he means to me. I was not raised to be a Christian. When I was a boy, my parents were searching spiritually, and they taught me about various forms of Christianity, about Zen Buddhism, about Siddha Yoga Hinduism, and about Islam. The large majority of my friends throughout my childhood in New York City were Jewish, and during much of my childhood I attended Jewish religious services more often than the services of any other religion. I read the Scriptures of all of these religions when I was a teenager. I also consulted the I Ching (the Confucian “Book of Changes? nearly daily.

 

When I was a young man, Jesus changed my life. I was on the road to disaster ? involved in sexual promiscuity, experimenting with illegal drugs, drinking heavily and headed toward alcoholism, captivated by the occult, deeply depressed, and consumed by hostility toward those who had been near and dear to me. I was also being sexually abused by a teacher who had been a beloved mentor to me. Weighed down under a crushing load of self-loathing and guilt, I was sitting one evening on a high window-ledge preparing to jump off and kill myself, when Jesus spoke audibly to me and rescued me from self-destruction.

 

What he told me was that I should get a Bible and read it. What I read there about Jesus changed my life. I learned there that God understood my feelings of guilt and self-loathing, and that God loved me ?as a father loves a son ?no matter what I had done, and no matter what had been done to me. I read about Jesus who healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons, fed the hungry, and taught a message of love, sincerity of heart, forgiveness, justice for the poor, peacemaking and reconciliation. I read that Jesus expressed that love and forgiveness when he gave his life on the cross, forgiving his enemies, taking on himself the punishment I knew that I deserved, so that I could be forgiven and reconciled to God and to others. When I accepted that forgiveness, a huge weight of guilt was lifted from my shoulders, and I was flooded with a profound joy that I had never before experienced.

 

I also read in the Bible that Jesus said, “If anyone wants to come after me, they must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me?(Luke 9:23). I knew that no half-measures would do. If I wanted to follow Jesus, I must devote my life to the love, sincerity of heart, forgiveness, justice for the poor, peacemaking and reconciliation that Jesus taught. During the decades since I first embraced Jesus (or rather was embraced by him), I have sought to live according to those values. Those who know me best know how far I fall short of that ideal, but I thank God whose grace and forgiveness are new every morning.

 

If you would like to know more about Jesus, a good way to start is by reading the Bible, as I did. Many people hesitate to do this because of evil things that have been done through the centuries by Christians. Certain people calling themselves “Christians?have indeed done terrible, indefensible things, especially to Muslims and Jews, frequently in the name of the Christian religion. Christians sometimes do evil things still today. But Jesus did not do these things, nor did he endorse them. Even if you don’t like the Christian religion, you can be drawn to Jesus whose teachings many Christians have betrayed. In fact, if you read the Bible, you will know how to challenge Christians to live up to the ideals of love, mercy, justice and peace that Jesus taught. And you will doubtless be challenged yourself too.

 

If you don’t know where in the Bible to start, or if the Bible seems too big for you to read in its entirety, I would suggest beginning with Luke ?the third book of the New Testament. I suggest reading a modern translation like the New International Version. If you do not have a Bible, you can read it online at www.biblegateway.com. If English is not your mother tongue, you can read the Bible in many other languages at www.biblegateway.com/versions. May God bless and guide your exploration!

 

If you are in Connecticut and would like to hear me preach sometime, please feel free to visit the International Church at Yale, where I preach on Sundays whenever I am not traveling. We would be delighted to welcome you. You are welcome, regardless of your nationality and regardless of your religious background or lack thereof.

Copyright © Joseph L. Cumming