THE AMERICAN JESUS
Do you worship the real Jesus…or the American Jesus? The “Jesus” according to many popular writers (e.g., Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, etc.) seems fuzzy about His mission in life. He seems very opaque about His mission, period, and unable to speak clearly about much of anything – except health and wealth. Ironically, the “Jesus” they present looks very much like our own consumer culture, a domesticated Messiah. Yet, the Jesus I read about in the Gospels is anything but domestic. He is extreme, untamed, and even insensitive at times. He is a lover of sinners, a friend of prostitutes, and a prophet of uncompromising convictions. He claimed to speak for God. He identified with the poor and nobodies, but then told His followers to expect to suffer, and to hate their families in order to follow Him. He was demanding, and severe in every sense of the term. He could even be harsh in his methods. Mark Galli points out in his book, Jesus: Mean and Wild, that if Jesus were on earth today, He would quite possibly be arrested for assault and battery due to some of His techniques.
The bottom line for me is this—the biblical portrait of Jesus puts a strong emphasis on truth claims because Jesus did. The Gospels also show Him to be a man of radical compassion and care for the poor and needy. Any attempt to present a flattened picture of Jesus that reduces Him to a one-dimensional person is destined to be off base. It is destined to present a Jesus that is weak and diluted. This kind of Jesus will not impact the world, and will certainly not draw the worship of modern-day men and women. The real Jesus of the Bible is actually a bit of a shock to the contemporary Western reader. You might call this “Jesus Shock.” He is quite different than the soft-spoken teacher that often shows up on Sunday school flannel boards in Vacation Bible Schools all over America. It’s a good reminder to make sure we are worshipping the real Jesus of the Gospels, and not an air-brushed, dumbed down version so common in Western culture today.