I’ve spent pretty much my entire life in church and I’ve been a Christ-follower since before grade school but sometimes I just wish that people would stop talking about Jesus.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, Melissa Harris-Perry informed us that Jesus is okay with serial divorce and unmarried couples living together. After all, she pointed out, Jesus was raised by an “unwed mom and a doting step-father.” Take that Cleaver family!
Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party in Russia, said in a 2009 interview that Jesus was the first communist ever. He says that, “the Sermon on the Mount of Jesus Christ and the Moral Code of the Builder of Communism” are “identical.”
Over the past few years many pastors have been falling all over themselves trying to convince us that Jesus doesn’t have a problem with gay marriage. In their understanding, since gay people love each other and Jesus’ only attribute is love their endorsement of gay marriage on his behalf is a no-brainer.
It seems like everyone wants to make Jesus the Peyton Manning of their particular cause. They are perfectly happy with a Jesus who exists only as their personal blank billboard but things get interesting when the conversation progresses from the love of Jesus to the virgin birth, resurrection or deity of Jesus. That Jesus, it seems, isn’t quite as popular as Spokesman Jesus.
People like the ones I quoted don’t like the idea of a God-Man who confronted sin, died for sin and rose to conquer sin. Some of them would even go so far as to say that those accounts were added to the Bible by over-zealous followers. All we can really trust, they tell us, are the accounts where Jesus does and says loving things that fall in line with today’s customs.
But where does this end?
If we want to cut out the miraculous, what’s to keep us from leaving the loving, socially acceptable Jesus on the editing room floor too? And who gets to decide what stays and what goes?
Eventually, all we are left with is a fragmented, watered-down Jesus that exists only to support the cause of the day rather than doing the will of his Father.
But this idea of picking and choosing the Jesus you like isn’t just a liberal problem. Christian conservatives who grew up in church and write checks to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering can fall into the same trap.
We love the idea of a Jesus who cracked the whip at the evil money-changers but we’d rather do without the Jesus that commands us to love our neighbor, even if that neighbor has an Obama sign in the front yard. We’re big fans of the Jesus that can help us dunk a basketball (Philippians 4:13) but we don’t pay much attention to his offer of contentment during financially lean times (Philippians 4:13).
Both sides would do well to stop talking about Jesus until they take the time to actually see what the Bible says about him. Christmas is an excellent time for that sort of a thing. The increased popularity of holiday trees and atheist nativity sets still can’t get us beyond the fact that all of this has something to do with a baby being born.
Whether we choose to worship him or co-opt him we have to do something with the baby in the manger. The screams of a newborn baby eventually morphed into the screams of a grown man being murdered. Both screams are too loud to be ignored. Only in the Bible can we learn how best to respond.
And in the Bible we find passages like Hebrews 1 that tell us that Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God” (3).
And Jesus is God’s Son (5).
But, just in case we might be tempted to think that a title like Son somehow chips away at Jesus’ deity, in verse 6 God says that Jesus is to be worshiped and in verse 8 God calls Jesus God. Jesus is much more than a spokesman. He is God.
No matter what side of the theological or political railroad track you live on, one thing is certain. Jesus is greater than you think. But that greatness is missed when we allow our social trends or preconceived notions to tell us how Jesus should be.
When we come to the Bible with empty hands, we can see Jesus as he really is.
And then, we can start talking about him.