Like I said a while back, I've been reading Donald Miller's book, Searching for God Knows What. Chapter 9 contains a lot of powerful statements about Jesus. Miller asks the basic question, What is Jesus like? And he comes up with a list of seven things that strike him from the Bible about Jesus.
1. He believed all people were equal.
2. He was ugly.
3. He liked to be with people.
4. He had no fear of intimacy.
5. He was patient.
6. He was kind.
7. He was God.
All of those things are worth pondering, but something Miller says near the end of the chapter hit me hard. I'll quote it for you:
"...the Jesus that exists in our minds is hardly the real Jesus. The Jesus on CNN, the Jesus in our books and in our movies, the Jesus that is a collection of evangelical personalities, is often a Jesus of the suburbs, a Jesus who wants you to be a better yuppie, a Jesus who is extremely political and supports a specific party, a Jesus who has declared a kind of culture war in the name of our children, a Jesus who worked through the founding fathers to begin America, a Jesus who dresses very well, speaks perfect English, has three points that fulfill any number of promises and wants you and me to be, above all, comfortable. Is this the real Jesus?" (pg. 146)
My answer to that question is no, that's not the real Jesus. But I do wonder how we would receive the real Jesus if He suddenly showed up among us. When He was here the first time, He generally made religious people mad. I'm a religious person. I hang out with pretty religious people. I wonder if He would upset me? And I wonder what He would think of how we (that is, we evangelicals) do church?
Compared to how He lived when He was here the first time, I think that if Jesus showed up I would feel embarrassed about how concerned we are about image, marketing, production, efficiency, and the like. I think He would ask me how hard I've tried to reach out to people that don't fit the profile. I'm afraid my answer would not be very satisfying to Him. I think He would wonder why I prefer busyness to prayer, and meetings to meals with friends. And I think He would ask me to talk to people more and email them less. Which would be hard for me to do.
So I think my first reaction when meeting up with the real Jesus would be -- discomfort. My unholiness in the presence of perfect holiness adds up to tremendous discomfort and conviction...
...Until I look again into His eyes and see, instead of anger, love. Instead of disappointment with me, satisfaction. Miller says it well when he writes, "Jesus would like me were we to meet face-to-face" (pg. 127). I believe that. I believe that because of His grace, He would look me in the eye and say something like, "I know. It's OK. You're my child and I'm delighted with you. I was thinking of you when I died on the cross and I've been thinking of you ever since. Yeah, you've messed up. But as far as the east is from the west, that far I've removed your transgressions from you. You are my friend. As hard as it may be to believe it, I am proud of you and can't wait to spend eternity with you and all the rest of my people."
One there is, above all others, well deserves the name of Friend;
His is love beyond a brother's -- costly, free, and knows no end.
They who once his kindness prove find it everlasting love.
Which of all our friends, to save us, could or would have shed his blood?
But our Jesus died to have us reconciled in him to God.
This was boundless love indeed; Jesus is a Friend in need.
When he lived on earth abased, "Friend of sinners" was his name;
Now above all glory raised, he rejoices in the same;
Still he calls them brethren, friends, and to all their wants attends.
Could we bear from one another what he daily bears from us?
Yet this glorious Friend and Brother loves us though we treat him thus:
Though for good we render ill, he accounts us brethren still.
O for grace our hearts to soften! Teach us, Lord, at length to love;
We, alas! forget too often what a Friend we have above:
But when home our souls are brought, we will love you as we ought.
(John Newton, 1779)