If you picked up the New Testament and read it without the benefit of being a part of the institutionalized church, you could get the impression that the ideas it presents are offensive, shocking, and hard to accept. That’s only natural, given all the stories it tells about people’s strong reactions to the Gospel. Jesus teaches and many disciples leave him. The religious leaders get so distraught about Jesus’s message that they plot to murder him. People stirred up riots when the first disciples started spreading the Gospel. Even secular powers, including Ceasar himself, commanded the message to stop. Those Christians who continued to teach in the name of Jesus despite the threats were imprisoned and executed.
If you grew up inside Christianity, however, you know that actually the message is a nice, boring one about how to feel good. It’s a message of how great we are when we do good things, and how horrible other people are when they do bad things. It’s about finding out that God is mad about the same things, and at the same people, as you are. The Gospel message, in simplest terms, is that if you say the right prayer and are initiated into our group, you too can look down on sinners and feel morally superior.
It would be very strange to find Christians who reject this Gospel. Why wouldn’t they want to work their way up the ladder of spirituality? Who wouldn’t want to fit into one of these nice slots we’ve prepared for them? How could they not accept such a perfect system, fine-tuned over two-thousand years? What we have today is obviously a vast improvement over the messy and downright dangerous early days of the church.
Why would anyone want to be so strange?