In the Discovering Christ series I'm attending, CS Lewis's famous quote was brought up, where he says that Jesus can only be "a liar, a lunatic, or Lord", and that He is only worth following if we deem Him Lord. I actually disagree with this dichotomy. I think there is no reason to discount a person's teachings based solely on his or her personal character.
Both Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. are deemed as heroes in their respective civil rights movements, yet both are purported to have been abusive or neglectful to their own wives. Should people have refused to follow their leadership regarding civil rights because of their personal shortcomings? And what about the political scandals of government officials whose personal lives may indeed be a hot mess, yet who have their head on straight when it comes to public policy that's in the best interest of the people?
So I don't think that people are merely being patronizing when they do not believe Jesus to be Lord. Even if they actually took that step of saying they do think Jesus was mentally unstable, or lied for some reason about the kingdom of God, this in no way negates the value of His teaching - namely, forgiveness, mercy, justice...
Another possibility is that Jesus actually taught one thing, but He was misunderstood, either initially or after the Gospels were written down. Personally, I don't see how Jesus could be considered a liar or "a lunatic", if in addition to teaching, he also performed miracles of healing, exorcisms, mass feedings, control over forces of nature, and defied death - both that of others and his own.
The question becomes - did He indeed actually do these things? Because if He did, it makes no sense to ignore the miracles and split hairs over the teachings. And if He did not, then we do not necessarily have to throw out the proverbial baby with the bath water - his teachings, be they actually his or not, resonate with many, and have been proven to change lives. There's no reason not to acknowledge and appreciate that.
Now, what does ride on giving the "right" answer to Jesus's question, "Who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15, Mark 8:29, Luke 9:20) is not whether or not we do as He command us, as God expects of us. Rather, what we believe about Jesus will affect our personal satisfaction with our lives. If we are following a prophet, sage, guru, the teaching is what takes priority. We model our lives on his example, to the best of our abilities, and hope for the best. This may or may not be sufficient for any given person to live a meaningful life.
But if we believe that we are following no mere mortal, but God Incarnate Himself, we are instantly humbled first and foremost, second we are made cognizant of God's incredible love for us that He should suffer in our place, and therefore, our entire lives are filled with the joy and peace that only Christ can bring. At least, that is my understanding. That is where I hope to get to in my faith journey.
These last couple of words are important to me: faith journey. Up until now, I have always thought of myself as a spiritual seeker, on a spiritual journey. But today, what naturally came across instead was not a spiritual journey but a faith journey. I am in the religion I want to be in. I have left twice now, and I have returned twice. I know that happiness is not attainable for me outside of Catholicism. I am no longer interested in questioning and doubting the basic teachings of Christianity, as though proving them wrong would somehow improve my quality of life. If I turn out to be wrong about the nature of God and all that follows according to Catholic tradition, so be it. At least I pursued a life worth living. But if I end up being right, there's no comparison to the joy I will feel at the leap of faith I had to make to get there!
So now I'm on a faith journey. I'm seeking to grow closer to Jesus, that aspect of God - if you will - that is most relatable to me as a human being. I'm only interested in delving deeper into the Catholic tradition, Catholic interpretation, Catholic spirituality. This does not mean I no longer find other paths valuable, but I cannot have a foot on each path and expect to find any real meaning in any of them. Multiple roads may lead to the same destination, but in order to actually arrive at one's destination, one must first choose a single road. No, I want to focus from now on on what Catholicism has to offer, as I know there is a lifetime's worth of beauty and truth to be discovered.
The intellectual side of me shall focus on the years between the time of Jesus and the acceptance of the current canon of Scripture. In other words, the early church. May this intellectual pursuit allow my mind to be opened to bridge the gap between faith and hope for faith. Amen.