It’s pretty simple really: How you see Jesus equals how you treat Him. How you treat Jesus equals how you live your spiritual life. Many people over the years have tried to define Jesus. Many times people have tried to make Jesus fit into their culture and their specific belief system. To tell the truth, when Jesus fits what you want Him to be like, it’s a whole heck of a lot easier to do what you feel like. And when it comes to that, well, then you become in control of what you want your spirituality to be like.
Case in point: I’ve come across two memes over the last month that begin to define Jesus by what He was and what He wasn’t:
This one on the left tires to define who Jesus wasn’t based upon presumptions the creator of the meme has against what I would suggest would be their view of Evangelical conservative Christians who probably are card carrying Republicans (in the meme’s creator’s mind that is). The one on the right also seems to be the same thing. Both memes are trying to counter act what they see as a popular conservative Evangelical view of Jesus. Now, I’m not here to defend either view in the least. I’m just wanting to point out that in these two memes Jesus is defined by what they say He isn’t and what they say He is. Yet there are some issues with both of these. Both start with the presupposition of what they think your stereotypical conservative Evangelical Christian sees Jesus.
Let’s see what it says here.
Jesus wasn’t white. Well, duh. He was from 1st century Palestine of Middle Easter decent. But this means he also wasn’t black either. His skin color (which really doesn’t matter in the end) was more of that of modern day people of the Middle East and Arab world.
Jesus was a radical non-violent revolutionary. Yes His teachings were radical for the time in many ways but not as one might think. As for a non-violent revolutionary that couldn’t be farther from the truth. He beat the snot out of people selling things and trading money in the Temple courts. He cursed a fig tree for no reason, oh and He was very snarky and mean towards Pharisees, the scribes, and other teachers of the Law. As for a revolutionary? He wasn’t trying to start a revolution. In fact, He outright told Ponitus Pilate that He wasn’t starting a revolution. (this also applies to when they say He wasn’t violent).
Jesus wasn’t Christian, an English-speaker, middle-class, overly pious, exclusive, or a legal citizen. Where to begin. Of course He wasn’t Christian. Christians weren’t even Christians until they were first called so in Antioch. Before that they were called The Way (by the way, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson weren’t Americans either, they were British). Of course Jesus wasn’t an English speaker, the language around where He grew up was Aramaic. The New Testament is written in Greek because that was the main language of the day. Jesus might have known Greek or Latin though.
He was middle-class. Archaeological evidence shows that there were a large number of building projects going on in the Galilean area during Jesus’ day. He was a carpenter, which actually meant He was a tradesman, so He was making bank. Also, they had a treasurer. What poor person and group as a treasurer? And the Roman soldiers rolled dice for His clothes, so they had to have been nice clothes.
As for English-speaking, people in England didn’t even speak English as we know it back then. They were still speaking Celtic in the British Isles and the Anglo-Saxons and Norse hadn’t come over there yet. How could Jesus speak a language not even in existence yet?
As for overly pious or a legal citizen, well, Jesus spent a ton of time in prayer, He spent a lot of time speaking about living a specific way, etc. So, yeah, He’s kinda overly pious. As for not being a legal citizen…well, a legal citizen of where, of what? To be a legal citizen of the Roman Empire, you had to either be of Roman Decent, have it granted to you, or purchase it. Jesus was very much a legal citizen of Galilee and of Judea. Oh, and the whole idea of legal citizenship was totally different back then. Paul, the great writer and missionary was a Roman Citizen and did much for Jesus.
Jesus was very exclusive: follow Him for He was the only way to the Father. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. That sounds pretty exclusive to me.
I can so go on and on and on.
Many today try to make Jesus into something He’s not by trying to back up their view of how they should live spiritually. In the same way, many people do the opposite with Jesus to justify how they live their lives by how they define Jesus.
One thing all these views lack is this: Jesus is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, God in the flesh who came to die so that we might have eternal life with God. That all who call on His name, who confess with their mouths and believe in their hearts that He is Lord and savior will be with Him forever. That is the crux of it all. When we get hung up on defining who Jesus is or isn’t to fit our own agenda, we begin to craft Jesus in our own image to justify our own spirituality or lack thereof.
Jesus calls us to follow Him. Jesus calls us to live like Him. Jesus calls us to be faithful. Jesus calls us to love our neighbor but to also not throw our pearls before swine (that is be fruitless in our conversations). Jesus tells us to love like He did, being willing to lay down our lives of for others, but He also tells us to shake the dust off our feet when people refuse to believe.
He calls us most of all to be like Him.
Our spiritual walk, our spiritual life, our faith journey isn’t to be molded and shaped by our desires and justified by our definition of Jesus. It isn’t in our hands, it’s in His.
How you define Jesus equals how you see Him. How you see Jesus equals how you live your life for Him. How you live your life for Him creates your spiritual journey.
Will you try to fit Jesus into your box and mold, or will you allow yourself to be molded into being like Him?