Here’s a recent attempt I made to offer a brief description of who Jesus is to me. Maybe you will find it helpful:

Jesus is God’s voice of love. In his book, The Soul of Christianity, Huston Smith, respected interpreter of the world’s great religions and a passionate Christian, said: “Everything that came from Jesus’ lips worked like a magnifying glass to focus human awareness on the two most important facts about life: God’s overwhelming love of humanity, and the need for people to accept that love and let it flow through them. . . . (pp. 53-54). Not just the words that came from his lips, but every deed of his life—and death—spoke of God’s immense love for us. His arms were, and are, always open, ready to fold in a divine embrace all who come to him.

And, Jesus is God’s heart of compassion. As you know, Jesus’ most intense disagreements were with the most dedicated and honorable religious leaders of his time: the Pharisees. Jesus agreed with them that the holiness of God should be honored and the goodness of God should be respected. He also agreed with them that the people of God should be characterized by a genuine holiness and an authentic goodness. Jesus’ quarrel with the Pharisees had to do with the way the pursued holiness and goodness. They had divided the world into holy and unholy: clean and unclean food, pure and impure objects, acceptable and unacceptable sacrifices, right and wrong rituals, sacred and profane places, and faithful and unfaithful practices. Of course, those distinctions also made it possible for them to divide the world into good people (those who ate clean food, handled pure objects, offered acceptable sacrifices, performed right rituals, honored sacred places, and engaged in faithful practices) and bad people (those who did not). They separated people into opposing camps: saints who were worthy of admiration and sinners who deserved condemnation; those they whom they were obligated to love and others whom they were free to disregard; neighbors and strangers, friends and enemies. Jesus knew that, once you have segregated the world in those ways, not only are estrangement, hatred, and violence possible, they are inevitable.

Jesus would not allow a false and shallow holiness to divide the world this way. Instead, Jesus lived by a kind of reckless, fearless, and boundless compassion. He disregarded frivolous purity standards; he broke unnecessary and oppressive laws. He spent time with known sinners—sharing his table with prostitutes, tax-collectors, and outcasts. He welcomed the estranged—lepers, women, and the poor. He was harsh only with the harsh and condemned only condemnation. He bound up the wounds of the brokenhearted, was tender toward those who failed, and forgiving of all who regretted their sins. “Jesus, thou art all compassion/Pure unbounded love thou art.”

Jesus has made it possible for me to hear what I could not have heard without him: God loves me and everyone else with an unconditional and everlasting love. Jesus has shown me that, contrary to all the images of an aloof, arbitrary, and angry God I picked up along the way, God is filled with understanding and compassion for all of our struggles, hurts, and sins. “It is not,” Jesus said, “the God’s will that any should perish but that all should come to life.”