The Dangers of Making Jesus Look Like Us
John UpChurch What topic related to Christianity, faith, and the Bible is trending online and in social media today?
- 2015 Feb 20
If you were to follow me on Facebook, you’d probably find my updates pretty dissatisfying. I rarely hit the post button on my personal account, rarely post pictures, and rarely do much of anything beyond a quick “Like.”
Why? I agonize over being fake. I’ve read the studies that suggest people see our Facebook personae as our “real life.” And that may depress them. So, I worry that what I post will only be the “my life is perfect” stuff that will make other people feel worse about their own lives.
It’s too easy to wallpaper over the holes in our lives without even trying. After all, we don’t usually feel like hitting that post button after we made a boneheaded mistake or hurt someone on purpose. We write or capture highly edited versions of the events. That camera only points where we choose.
But our selective social media lives shouldn’t be that surprising. According to Ryan Lokkesmoe over at Relevant, we’ve got the whole “airbrushing the rough things” down to an art, including how we airbrush Jesus:
“It’s easy to make Christ into what we want Him to be. We smooth out His rough edges and His apparent inconsistencies. We apologize for Him. We make Him more (or less) socially palatable, depending on our agenda. We boil down His message into what we want its essence to be. We re-create Jesus, and end up with an image that only loosely resembles the original.”
And I count myself guilty here, perhaps influenced by the images I saw of Jesus when I grew up: trimmed beard, clean hair, blue eyes. That Jesus always made for a nice picture on my grandmother’s wall, but it hardly resembles the Jesus who traveled over dusty roads and had no place to sleep (Matthew 8:20). I liked the Jesus who talked about all those blessings, but the One who kept referring to clenched teeth and unending pain rarely made an appearance in the few sermons I heard as a kid.
A simple Jesus would be so much easier to deal with. But the real Jesus is complex. He loves and chastises. He rebukes and rewards. He hugs children and whips moneychangers. However, revealing our biases about our Savior can be tough, as Lokkesmoe explains:
“It’s not easy to admit that we edit Jesus’ message to suit our own preferences. That requires that we be totally honest with ourselves, which takes a fair amount of maturity and self-control. But if you would like to honestly assess the degree to which you are airbrushing Jesus, try this simple exercise: Read one of the four Gospels and make a note of everything Jesus says that makes you a little uncomfortable—the statements you secretly wish He didn’t make. Be honest with yourself about it. Just write those things in a list with the Bible reference next to each one. Your list might have 3 things on it, or 30. It doesn’t matter, just write them out.”
On the other hand, our understanding of Jesus must include a Savior who provides comfort. In a recent blog post on BibleStudyTools.com, pastor Mark Altrogge points to 3 ways that He does:
“First, Jesus says God gave us our human life and our bodies without us even asking. Human life and our physical bodies are incredibly valuable. Our life is much more valuable than the food we put on the table; our body far more valuable than the shirt we put on. If God gave us life, which is so very valuable, will he not give us food, which is of far lesser value? If God gave us these bodies which are fearfully and wonderfully made, will he not give us clothes to cover them? And even further, if God has given us eternal life, will he not provide for our temporal life?”
Now it’s your turn. Do you think modern Christians have an image of Jesus that is too “safe”? Have we airbrushed the rough places to make Jesus more acceptable?