Grubbs said Jesus was considered different in his day particularly because of his message of inclusion. He said Jesus preached to everyone and was particularly critical of hypocrites and judgmental people whose legalism kept them at a distance from the people who seemed to need the most spiritual and tangible sustenance.
“The harshest words He had in the Bible were for the religious people,” Grubbs said of Jesus. “He just had a broader love for people. He saw a ‘big picture' in everyone.”
Grubbs said Christians must be careful not to get caught up in a denominational creed or their own cultural background in order to see clearly who Jesus was and reflect His light.
“I think for a lot of people, they rejected Jesus before they ever encountered Him,” Grubbs said. “I think a lot of people encountered Christians and said ‘not for me.'”
Meanwhile, the Rev. Joseph Alsay, rector of St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, said Jesus' ministry has influenced everything from academia to hospital care.
Like Grubbs, Alsay said Jesus' message of inclusion was key. “It was so radical, it crossed boundaries,” Alsay said.
Alsay said he has been discussing the ways that Jesus' has transformed the world in his Advent homilies. He said his series will culminate during Christmas Eve services, with a message of hope for troubled times.
“In the midst of mankind's mess, the Messiah is born, whatever the mess may be. Whether that be Newtown, Conn., (Dec. 14 shootings) or something else,” Alsay said. “In that environment, that is when Heaven and humanity hug — where they meet.
“That's Jesus. That influences everything — how you relate to life, your ministry, how you relate to your fellow man.”
The Rev. Rick Stansberry, pastor of Christ the King Catholic Church, said Jesus' teachings are needed now more than ever.
“His main influence has been to give us guidelines for life — a moral compass by which we could make not only our own lives better but the whole world better,” Stansberry said.
Like Grubbs and Alsay, Stansberry said Jesus was inclusive and admonished people to treat their fellow man with less judgment and more compassion.
“Part of the problem nowadays is we've lost that great respect for humanity that Jesus taught. We put ourselves first and the world second and we can't do that in order to be messengers of hope in a world of darkness,” Stansberry said.