Before Christianity There Was Jesus
"Jesus did not come to teach us Christianity, he came to teach us love." That is how an old friend of mine, Jim Rigby, used to say it.
I think somehow we have forgotten that message in Christianity 101.
Some Christians are taught a view of theology that has no ethical implications at all. This is not to say that such Christians have no ethics, only that their actual theology is divorced from a message of justice and love.
In that view of theology, the life of Jesus is a story about magic tricks. Jesus is born of a virgin, performs a lifetime of miracles, dies, and then, magically gets up from his grave. If you believe the story, you're saved, if you don't you're damned.
Other Christians don't focus on Jesus as a magician but instead are taught the rituals, creeds, and theology of the church (all things I love), but have forgotten that those were actually later inventions of Jesus' followers.
To be honest, we don't know how Jesus would feel about them. When this view of theology becomes distorted, following Jesus becomes nothing more than giving intellectual assent to a particular set of "I believe" statements.
But when we study the life of Jesus as presented in the gospels, it is so much more than a magic trick or a set of such statements. There are clear ethical implications from beginning to end.
Jesus begins his ministry by saying he has come to announce good news to the poor. In the gospels, Jesus' last parable (the sheep and goats) is given to remind Peter that Jesus can only be loved by caring for other human beings.
Jesus lived before we turned him into a magic trick on the one hand or an abstract theological belief system on the other. Christianity can be the most beautiful gift to the world when we do not replace Jesus' core message.
Jesus did not come to teach us Christianity, he came to teach us to love.