About every month or so I come across a certain kind of writing. Sometimes it’s a blog, other times it’s book. Someone describes what they think people would do if Jesus were to appear before them and speak. WWJS? Or they write about what people should do in order to emulate Jesus’ behavior, thereby reflecting His unchanging mission here on Earth.

 

This writing reminds us that it’s through our actions that we discover what really drives a person, what fire burns hottest in the blacksmith of their hearts. We discover if we are for Jesus or against Him. It’s a worthy reminder.

 

More times than not, however, I disagree with the specifics of this writing because it creates a stilted caricature of either Jesus, crowds, or both. It tends to put 'the ugly' of life on other people, and it tends to reduce Jesus to a manageable and pliable cardboard cut-out of our will, not God’s.

 

For example, I believe that if His identity were concealed, we would censor Him at church if He were to say what He said in the Gospels. You know, the tough talk. And I’m not talking hellfire and brimstone. I’m talking Jesus’ bad etiquette - His yelling and name calling, His inciting fear in both crowds and His own followers.

 

That Jesus, the untamed malcontent dissenter, the guy in the crowd who can’t help but espouse His contrary views. The guy who pokes fun at hypocritical authority, the guy who makes those around Him mighty uncomfortable, the person you wouldn’t want as a roommate for very long.

 

And that’s the church crowd. What about the rest of the world?

 

I believe there is a segment that, contrary to what we church people think or have been told, would invite Him out for a drink because they find Him odd in an amusing way. They would want to hear what He had to say because it’s sometimes a kick to hear a foreigner’s perspective, to get his take on life. If nothing more, it’s entertaining to listen to the meter of another’s words, compare them to your own, and wonder how he got that way.

 

This is part of the allure of travel: to rub yourself against the unfamiliar rub of another and his culture. It helps define who you are, for there is no ‘unique you’ to take pride in without a social context. But with peculiar Jesus standing next to you at your favorite haunt, you don’t have to travel. You just arrive and you get the experience for free. No passport.

 

So there is a group that would welcome Jesus, this unimpressive-looking man in his 30s, to come along with them as they unwind after a day’s work. The people in the group would take turns talking about their day. Each conversation would, in one way or another, revolve around money, for we are, each and every day, living under the weight of this great currency. When Jesus speaks, people listen, not so much for wisdom and learning, but to catch His queer phrases and concerns.

 

I think this cross section, which represents many of us moderns if not the majority, would listen to what He said about the poor, money, justice, and love — then laugh. It would be the laughter we produce when we experience people and ideas that are out of step, like people who wear clothing from thirty years ago. This laughter would be mixed with the other kind that comes from hearing ideas that are so seemingly full of folly and naivety.