I pretty up Jesus to make him more convincing because I don’t think he’s enough on his own.
I do this because I’m scared, I’m nervous what you’ll think about him — and I have this other idea of God that will go down smoother to answer all your doubts and concerns.
Doesn’t this make me a liar? Or disingenuous? Or a magician? Or a bad movie trailer?
I end up saying, “Jesus is actually saying —” and then going into a detailed explanation of the Greek to gloss over the really hard things he said.
We don’t like to wince. We cringe at the tough stuff that doesn’t mesh with our modern Western sensibilities. We are sure that Jesus meant something else. So we dress him up, decorate his words, and exegete the edge off him.
In Matthew 13, when Jesus says what he’ll do to evil people — he’ll “throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” — I fail to see how this is gentle generous by-golly Jesus who gives free hugs and high fives.
In Luke 12, when Jesus says what the master will do to the wicked servant — “He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers” — I can’t turn this around by saying, “Jesus is really saying, ‘I will never stop loving you.’”
In John 6, Jesus preaches a sermon so hardcore that every single follower except the appointed twelve end up leaving him. Jesus asks the remaining dozen: “Do you want to leave too?” I don’t see this in any church growth books or discipleship workshops.
In Matthew 10, Jesus says plainly with zero disclaimers: “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” I don’t see a hidden meaning in this passage. He said what he meant; he meant what he said.
Can we let Jesus speak for himself?
I know that Jesus was absolutely loving to the outcast, the poor, the children, the foreigners, the women, the demon-possessed, the disabled — but are we really skipping all these other parts? He had some hard words for the Pharisees, the teachers, the rich young ruler, and that guy who wanted to bury his dad at a funeral.
I’m not sure if I can keep neutering Jesus like this and still be called a “follower of Christ.”
What I’m following then is God in my own image. I’m doing both a disservice to Him and to you.
There are certainly many things that Jesus said which I don’t understand, which I find unpleasant, which tickle my teeth and turn my guts upside-down.
But if he really does love us: he’s going to say the hard truth. Part of love is being truthful, or you’re not being loving. At some point, Jesus pushed up against a human sensitivity and ran right through our polite, politically correct paradigms.
Truth is never easy to hear. That’s why it’s called truth. And that’s why it sets us free.
If I were the Son of God and I knew there was really a place called hell, then I’d be like one of those scientists in a disaster movie who warns everyone about the impending doom. I wouldn’t hesitate to mention the terrible tragedy that is heading for us — and Jesus did the same.
If I were a disciple recording the events of Jesus’ life, I wouldn’t spare time trying to make the truth-pill go down easy. If Jesus died and rose again for us but never said a nice thing, he has still proven he loves us by going to a cross and inviting us to eternal life.
If someone died for me while saying a few tough words: I’m not going to whine about the tough words.
I just don’t want to chop up the words of my Friend and King for the sake of making him look consumer-friendly. I’m not saying we need to be offensive or shocking or colorful about this — but I just don’t want to water down my Savior into someone who can’t save.
He does love us. So much that he didn’t hold back, not once.
Please let Jesus speak. He is better at it than we are.
“I want God, not my idea of God.”
— C.S. Lewis