Would I love Jesus if he didn’t look exactly like me?
That’s a tough question. I’ve been studying the Bible and praying for as long as I can remember, and I’ve shifted my beliefs several times. Each shift in my beliefs was an attempt to draw closer to a faithful view and imitation of Jesus.
I wouldn’t believe what I do if I didn’t think it was in keeping with the “authentic” Jesus. Even if my everyday life of work and family life is quite different from the itinerant preaching and miracle-working of Jesus, I do attempt to incorporate his teachings into my daily decisions and practices–at least as much as I imagine possible.
Even if I’d be the first person to poke some holes in my inconsistencies or the ways I fall short, I’m not the only person trying to follow Jesus in modern life who imagines that Jesus more or less approves of what I’m doing. I’m not perfect, but who is?
Considering things on the whole, it’s safe to say that I either consciously or unconsciously believe that I’m on the same page as Jesus.
Well… I hope so. But it does make me wonder how comfortable I have become in my beliefs and how resistant I may be to shaking them up.
We can cherry pick verses all day about how Jesus was either more loving and gracious than we imagine or more critical and jarring than we imagine. It sure felt like the Gospels are just one story after another of people learning that God’s priorities and ways of doing things are very different from our own.
For the people who were challenged by Jesus, it wasn’t a sure thing that they would follow him. They had a physical Jesus standing right in front of them. There was no ambiguity back then.
Today, we study, pray, and trust the Holy Spirit to guide us toward the right way to live, but that doesn’t guarantee that sometimes we’ll shape Jesus into our own image. A Jesus who looks like us is a lot easier to follow and to love.
If my self-constructed illusion of Jesus gets challenged, would I stick around? I think so. I hope so. Yet, the Gospels also have plenty of stories of optimistic faith that faltered when under pressure.
A safeguard for today is to continue discerning if my faith rests in a Jesus who is God-incarnate or a Jesus who is me-incarnate. One clue may be whether I find Jesus really easy to love.