As we reflect deeply on the richness and complexity of the Jesus story, we are struck by the conflicting emotions and perspectives it evokes within us. On one hand, there is a profound sense of devotion and love for the teachings and example of Jesus. His radical messages of compassion, justice, humility, and sacrificial love for humanity speak to our souls. Yet on the other hand, we cannot ignore how Jesus’ name has been co-opted and weaponized by various cultural and political forces throughout history to justify violence, oppression, and their own agendas antithetical to his way.

This tension leads us to wrestle with the ways Jesus has become culturally captive – confined to a Western, Europeanized packaging stripped of his original Aramaic and Jewish Palestinian context. We are challenged to liberate Jesus from these limitations by exploring other cultural lenses. The Indigenous view of Jesus as a “recently departed ancestor” serving as a mediator between humanity and the Creator resonates with us. It frames him not as a dominating power to be worshipped, but as a vulnerable, relational figure walking alongside us.

This perspective allows Jesus’ teachings of selfless love, radical equality, and caring for the marginalized to shine through more clearly. Reading the parables and stories through the eyes of the dispossessed and disinherited surfaces profound new insights. We are convicted by how much the Western philosophical concept of penal substitutionary atonement has distorted our view of God into an authoritarian power model completely contrary to the compassionate, non-violent example of Jesus.

Truly encountering Jesus requires us to confront our own cultural biases and assumptions. We must humbly examine the lenses through which we have experienced him, allowing space for the complexity of paradox rather than oversimplified explanations. As we open ourselves to Indigenous and marginalized perspectives, we are invited to rediscover the universally resonant heart of Jesus’ teachings that cuts through cultural trappings.

While being formed by our particular contexts, there is a core essence of Jesus’ path that speaks to all people if we can liberate it from captivity to any single culture. A path of humble vulnerability over dominating power. A path prioritizing the suffering and redemption of the oppressed. A path of holy resistance to dehumanizing systems. As we walk this path together across cultures, we become more fully alive.


There are conflicting emotions and perspectives around the figure of Jesus, with some devoted to him while others see his name used for opposing cultural and political agendas. Translating Jesus’s original Aramaic words into modern languages can strip away the inclusive, cultural meaning. Western missionaries often presented a colonial, Europeanized version of Jesus that sought to erase Indigenous cultures. However, Indigenous worldviews may resonate better by viewing Jesus as a mediator or “recently departed ancestor” connecting humanity to God. The Western philosophical concept of penal substitutionary atonement paints God as an authoritarian power punishing humanity, contrary to Jesus’s embodiment of vulnerability according to some Indigenous interpretations. Encountering the reality of Jesus requires grappling with our own cultural assumptions and biases. Looking at Jesus through the lens of the dispossessed and marginalized offers insightful new perspectives. While the relationship between Christ and culture is complex requiring multiple lenses, there are still core truths about Jesus’s teachings that transcend cultural adaptations.

Key Points

1. There are conflicting emotions around Jesus, with some seeing him as a source of devotion and others seeing his name used for opposing agendas.

2. Translating Jesus’s words from Aramaic to modern languages can lose the original inclusive meaning and cultural context.

3. Western missionaries often tried to erase Indigenous cultures and present Jesus through a European colonial lens.

4. Indigenous worldviews may better resonate with Jesus’s teachings by seeing him as a “recently departed ancestor” mediating with God.

5. The Western philosophical idea of penal substitutionary atonement portrays God as authoritarian power punishing humanity.

6. Encountering the reality of Jesus requires grappling with our own cultural assumptions and biases.

7. Looking at Jesus from the perspective of the dispossessed and marginalized offers new insights.

8. Jesus embodied vulnerability rather than dominating power according to some Indigenous views.

9. The relationship between Christ and culture is complex, requiring multiple lenses.

10. While adapting Jesus to cultures, there are still core truths about him that transcend cultures.