The worst voice of the brand IS the brand.
I read that on Seth Godin’s blog, recently, and thought of Christianity. I thought of Jesus. I thought of how many people don’t believe in God, or don’t follow Jesus, because of Christians. Does anyone take seriously the nutcase who does evil in the name of Jesus? No, but what is the good of the brand? Do those of us that follow Jesus truly show the good of the brand?
Jesus, as a philosopher is wonderful. There’s no greater role model, in my view, than Jesus Christ. It’s just a shame that most of the people who follow him and call themselves Christians act nothing like him.
The thing I think about is no one denies Jesus. Most of those that deny the existence of God do not deny the historical Jesus. They believe he was real and lived an exemplary life. The problem they have with Christianity is Christians. I can think it is other Christians that are the ones reflecting poorly on Jesus, but I know I’ve done my part. I know my own secrets, my own past, and how I’ve been a hypocrite.
Jesus’ hope for the world is in us, people who are “thick and ordinary”. People who are considered stupid. Christians sometimes run from science, run from social justice, run from reality, and then they claim it to be persecution. The world has legitimate questions and Christianity claims to have answers. Why don’t more Christians offer real answers? The world has legitimate physical, emotional and spiritual needs, yet Christians don’t seem willing to engage the world. They cherry pick “truth” and arguments and stick amongst their own. So, they look stupid to the watching world when they run and hide.
Truly, the world respects Jesus and hates its followers.
If he is the most dominant figure in all history, shouldn’t there be more of an impact when looking around the world? Then again, what do we attribute to Jesus? Is it just being a teacher with some nice teachings? For instance, an often quoted passage:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39 b)
I hear this verse, or variations of it, quoted from people who don’t identify as Christians. They espouse this teaching of Jesus and wonder why people, especially Christians, don’t follow it more often? They wonder why Christians don’t follow the greatest commandment? They wonder why Christians talk about Hell, morality and money and not love and forgiveness?
But then the problem repeats itself. While Christians cherry pick verses to discuss, that are often taken out of context, the rebuttals are often pulled out of context. Yes, we should love our neighbor as ourself, but what about the verse before it? The context of the greatest commandment, or the golden rule:
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)
First and foremost, we are to love God. Love God with everything.
If we are going to espouse the teachings of Jesus, and tell people to model their lives after him, we need to look at the entirety of his teachings. We need to look at his life. We can’t pick and choose what we like and don’t like. We can’t embrace part of Jesus, and then be ashamed by other parts. When we try and rebrand what the life and teachings of Jesus are, we do everyone a disservice. Most of all, we do a disservice to Jesus.
I think of this with Easter. The brand that is synonymous with Jesus is the cross. The symbol that was once death, but now is life. The symbol that was once despised, but now is a sign of hope. The brand that everyone who follows Jesus must identify with.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26)
And the words that precede it:
“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Luke 9:22)
The brand of Jesus. The reality of Easter. Resurrection. The cross.
Last fall, I asked Liam what the cross meant. His face became sad and he said, “Jesus died.” I then asked him what happened after that. He instantly became joyful, “He rose!” Liam threw his arms around me and embraced me.
I know there are some people out there that do evil in the name of Jesus. I know some of you have been hurt by people in the name of Jesus. When I hear these stories I think this is not Jesus, but the damage is done. I say that, and then I’ll rhetorically ask, “Is Jesus safe?” Well, I guess that depends on your definition of safe. Denying yourself and picking up a cross may not be considered safe, but Jesus is good. I think of Psalm 23:4 with this.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
I believe the resurrection of Jesus is real. My love, respect and appreciation for Jesus continues to grow as I go beyond the Jesus I was told about when I was younger. I’m knowing him more for who he truly is, and not what someone else wishes he were to be. As I continually try to deny myself and pick up my own cross, I’ve found life.
Kanye West says it as only he can in his song “Jesus Walks”.
To the hustlers, killers, murderers, drug dealers even the strippers
(Jesus walks with them)
To the victims of welfare for we living in hell here hell yeah
(Jesus walks with them)
Now hear ye hear ye want to see Thee more clearly
I know he hear me when my feet get weary
Cause we’re the almost nearly extinct
We rappers are role models we rap we don’t think
I ain’t here to argue about his facial features
Or here to convert atheists into believers
I’m just trying to say the way school need teachers
The way Kathie Lee needed Regis
That’s the way I need Jesus
This Easter, my hope and prayer is you take time to reflect upon the totality of Jesus, and what his life, death and resurrection mean for you and the world.
As for me, my hope and prayer is that I continue to reflect Jesus to the world. I want Paul’s words to ring true in my life, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” I want to exemplify the brand of Jesus.
He is risen.
Thanks for reading.