If you ask any number of youth ministers, trying to prove to their kids that you can still be cool and live a Godly life, the answer would be, “Of course he would, along with his North Face jacket and one of those cool KAVU visors.” However, Joel Olsteen would probably disagree and say that Jesus would definitely be sporting a snazzy hair cut and a million dollar smile.
As a matter of fact:
- If you ask some young, ambitious evangelical pastor, Jesus would be a passionate, forceful man out to shake things up in his society.
- But if you ask an aging bishop from any number of churches in the mainline denominations, Jesus would be forgiving, meek, and welcoming with open arms. He would be the model of tolerance.
- And if you ask certain members of the emergent church movement, Jesus would be a disgruntled (and probably vocal) skeptic when it came to the modern institutionalized church, wondering why we had made a business out of his bride.
- If you ask a tree-hugger (at least one who believes in Jesus), Jesus would definitely be concerned about his carbon footprint, and may even be a vegan.
- If you ask certain Mennonites, he would be a pacifist and abhor our involvement in the political process altogether.
- But if you ask a good number of African American pastors, Jesus would most certainly be a social activist and organize marches on the Capitol.
- And if you ask a large percentage of the conservative Christian voter block, Jesus would have not one but two of those little American flags flying from the antenna of his fullsize SUV. His ringtone might actually be Lee Greenwood singing, “God Bless the USA.”
- If you had asked Ghandi (who was quite the admirer of Jesus’s teaching), Jesus would have agreed with a hunger strike to fight the injustices of an oppressive government.
- But a whole millennium’s worth of Holy Roman emperors would have disagreed with Ghandi on that one.
So what would Jesus be like if he walked the Earth today? People have been trying to figure that one out for a long time, and it is not hard to see there are some conflicting viewpoints presented. There have been no less than three quests for the “historical Jesus,” which is really just a fancy way of saying that people have wanted to fill in the details on his life and get a picture of who he really was.
Funny thing, it appears every time an attempt was made, the result was a Jesus who looked and acted quite similar to the people doing the study. Remarkably, Jesus wound up sharing surprising points of contact with their own theology, philosophy, and political worldview. Turns out, according to them, Jesus thought the same way they did! What a coincidence.
As he often does, the Holy Spirit clubbed me over the head with a thought during some recent Bible study. I just finished Hebrews again, and I came across these words,
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:1-3, emphasis added)
If you recognize this passage, you may realize it is the “therefore” after Hebrews chapter 11 where the author (whoever that may be) gives an impressive definition of faith through the examples of individuals throughout redemptive history. The passage provides us with a beautifully practical way to understand faith and a call to endure hardship and press on, but the main point of the passage is not what I plan to discuss.
In these three verses, the author, after providing us with dozens of examples in the previous chapter, gives us the epitome. Here, he states that Christ is our ultimate example, and that we should endure the race set before us as Christ endured the cross set before him. Yet again, the New Testament supplies an exhortation to be like Jesus.
There are few things as clear in the New Testament as the fact that we should be like Jesus. It is stated all through the gospels, the believers in Antioch get accused of it in Acts, Paul is almost as fond of reminding us to be like Jesus as he is telling us he is a bondservant.
In summary, being like Jesus is a big deal.
Which brings me to the question of whether Jesus would wear Chacos. It is an important one. Not because of the answer per se, but it is important because of how often it gets asked. It usually sounds different though. Sometimes, it sounds like, “Would Jesus vote?” or “Would Jesus drive a luxury sedan?” And other times it sounds like, “Would Jesus disown a daughter who told him she was a homosexual?”
Christianity spends a whole lot of time trying to figure out what Jesus would do, but I am afraid often our motives are skewed. Just like those stuffy professor types who went searching for the historical Jesus and found someone who agreed with them, we often drag Jesus to our side of an argument. We use Jesus’ “response” to some hypothetical scenario we propose as justification for doing it the way we want to.
For people who want to gripe at the government, Jesus would have griped at the government. For people who want to save the whales, Jesus would have saved the whales. For people who want to lower taxes for small business owners, Jesus would have voted republican. For people who want to hate homosexuals, well, you get the point.
Please do not mishear my point. These ethical questions are indeed important, and we should seek to respond Biblically in all situations. Yet, we completely miss the point of this passage’s command to be like Jesus if we use it this way.
As a matter of fact, look at the majority of New Testament passages that make this exhortation, and there is something specific in mind. Here, as well as others (Phillipians 2:5-8 for example), we are not told to just be like Jesus in some vague sense. These passages tell us which aspect of Jesus they want us to mimic. Look close enough, something specific is in mind. It is Jesus’s humble obedience to God the Father.
The fact is, the Bible does not give us a comprehensive play-by-play of Jesus’s life and actions. There is no way we can know whether Jesus would wear Chacos or if he would use paper of plastic. Those questions simply did not exist back then, and even if they did, the Bible’s purpose was not to give us every detail of the life of Christ. Therefore, we must speculate to answer those questions. Again, ethics are important, and we must consider the truths in scripture to make these decisions. But we have crossed a line when our real purpose is to justify our actions.
In the meantime, let us make sure we are doing what the Bible has asked us to do with the life of Jesus. Let us follow his example of selflessness. Let us be like Jesus the way the Bible says to and put aside our will and our wants for those of our Heavenly Father.
May the words of scripture direct our actions, and may it not be the other way around.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
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