Warning--you will probably disagree with some things I say. That's alright. I don't judge you for disagreeing. You will also probably have some pretty good arguments against what I believe. That's awesome, but you probably won't change how I feel. Proceed with caution.
I have come to a few general understandings about the nature of Jesus; who he was and is, and what he set out to accomplish. This has also led me to a couple assertions about the way the modern (and, to an extent, postmodern) church operates.
1) I believe that Jesus's sole purpose was not to "die for our sins." We in the Church have taken this for granted over the years. Jesus of Nazareth, in his life and teachings, constantly reminds us (as a prophet) that all we have to do to be forgiven of sins is to repent, and ask God's forgiveness--it's in the prayer that he teaches his disciples to pray: forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And Jesus taught that the man who simply prayed, "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner," was forgiven. God doesn't demand his son die in place of us. God isn't a blood-thirsty megalomaniac.
However, if this is the case, why did Jesus have to die? Jesus forgave sins, and likewise we are to forgive sins. We are to bear the burden of the sins of the world, just as Jesus did. This is what it means to pick up our cross and follow him. This is what it means when Jesus says that we must take up his yoke--to bear the sins and grievances and pain of the world on our shoulders, to be the presence of the risen Christ to everyone we meet.
2) Jesus's importance lies in his revolutionary message that preaches that the Kingdom is completely counter to any secular or logical idea of the way the world should operate. His death is an example of the Supreme Sacrifice of what it means to truly love someone enough to lay down your life for them. When the world says there is not enough, the Kingdom says there is plenty. When the world says to exact revenge, the Kingdom says to turn your cheek. When the world says to sue a person for all they're worth, the Kingdom says, no--you should give them even more.
3) The Gospel is good news. What is inherently good in the idea that you either have to "accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior" or face eternal torment in a fiery hell? Nothing.
Instead, the good news is that in Christ's resurrection (and yes, I do believe in an actual resurrection, in case you were wondering), Death has been defeated, and that we are free to live without fear of Death. We have been set free from the slave-chains of our own mortality. What would you do with your life if you weren't afraid to die? Jesus's Gospel is not necessarily that you must "turn or burn," as much as it is a gift--you have been saved, whether you accept the gift or not. You have the choice of accepting the gift with grace and unleashing the love of Christ on the world (real love, not the stuff they preach in churches that advocate loving someone simply because you want them to be a Christian).
4) Jesus was the son of God, but I don't think it was ever his intention to be worshiped as he is in many churches today. Jesus was God's son, but his purpose was to point people in the direction of the One Holy God, not to seek to be worshiped himself. Sometimes I think we forget that. To paraphrase Siddharta Gautama: A finger points to the moon. Now child, don't mistake the finger for the moon.
Anyway. That's a few things. I've got classes this weekend, so I'm going to be very busy. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
Grace and peace,