Jesus Christ: Version 316.4

By MeLissa LeFleur

It seems like everyone has concocted their own version of Jesus. We each have our various passions, and we develop our version of Jesus around those values. We pick and choose from our favorite attributes until we have the perfect Jesus for us.

Some popular cookie-cutter versions of Jesus:

  • Pop-culture Jesus: This Jesus is just a good buddy, someone who will come watch football and drink a beer with you. Talk to Him however you please, and He'll be your pal.
  • Progressive Jesus: This Jesus is motivated only by compassion, equality, inclusion, forgiveness, tolerance, and love. He is open-minded and holistic in His approach. He is anti-war and anti-death penalty. He has no greater passion than helping the poor. As someone informed me this morning, "Hey man, Jesus smoked pot too." Huh? Was that in the Bible?
  • Sunday School Jesus: This version of Jesus is the one that is often taught to children. He is full of love and meekness. He never raises His voice and only teaches G-rated material. Earlier this week, I received this in an email, "I believe Jesus was a very good person who was especially concerned about children and their safety. He thought people should love one another as He loved each of us." Yep, very Sunday School Jesus.
  • Right-wing Jesus: This Jesus is focused on causes like traditional marriage, stopping abortion, and promoting capitalism. Convenient political partner.
I used to subscribe to the Sunday School Jesus. My mindset was formed through the flannel graph depictions of Jesus I saw in Sunday School. My sister and I would sit in those little red chairs and listen as the teacher told us how Jesus had searched all day for that little lamb and how He carried it on His shoulders back to the fold. We talked about the compassion and care that Jesus took with us, His children.

One day, my whole view of Jesus changed. The Sunday School chairs got bigger, which apparently meant we were ready for bigger concepts. My sis and I sat and listened as our teacher read the account of Jesus cleansing the temple. We learned how Jesus stormed in and overturned the tables of money-changers. How could the compassionate Jesus raise His voice and treat His creation so harshly? Wasn't He the all-compassionate Shepherd who wouldn't hurt anything or anybody?

My teacher went on to explain righteous indignation and how it isn't sin. However, I learned an important lesson from that teacher: my view of Jesus was flawed. I had allowed my environment, passions, and culture to influence my view of Jesus.

In 2 Corinthians 11:4, Paul wrote, "For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough." Even back then, there were mystical versions of Jesus that had popped up in the early Christian church. Some people denied Jesus' full humanity; others rejected His full divinity. Others denied His resurrection. These people didn't believe the real biblical Jesus. They modified their concept of Jesus to fit their culture, much like we have done in our culture today. When this happens, it isn't long before our theology gets modified to fit our personal version of Jesus.

Aspects of Jesus that don't get talked about very often in our culture:

  • Jesus took sin seriously, very seriously. He's the one who said that looking lustfully at a woman is the same as committing adultery with her. He equated having hate in one's heart with murder. He wasn't known for His tolerance of sinful behavior.
  • Jesus was Jewish. Jesus was not a modern American. Jesus lived in a very different culture at a very different time. We have to take this into account and make sure we do not view Jesus through a 21st-century American lens.
  • Jesus' purpose was to transforms hearts, not culture. It is only through a changed heart that true and lasting societal change occurs.
What do you believe about Jesus? How do you find out if your version of Jesus is correct? I encourage you read the Gospels and take time to write notes about Jesus. As you write your description, include the Bible reference to back it up.

What you find may challenge you, surprise you, shock you, and inspire you. See if your view of Jesus changes. Mine did.

Image Credit: The Jefferson Bible

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Published 11-7-12