Voices
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Your Jesus and mine

Nobody owns the Son of God, and He has important words for both the right and the left

Issue: "The battle," March 24, 2012

I'm a compulsive reader of bumper stickers, as well as an admirer of the brief punchy statement that "makes you think." If it sticks in your head after making you think, so much the better. On those merits, I would rate this one fairly high: JESUS CALLED. HE WANTS HIS RELIGION BACK.

If you're thinking, your first thought is probably, Huh? If the bumper in question is decked with other stickers, such as Coexist spelled out in the symbols of various religions, or HATE IS NOT A FAMILY VALUE, you've got a clue. The driver of the vehicle ahead of you is a left-wing, tree-hugging, pacifist hippie wannabe. Not to indulge in stereotypes or anything, but as the light changes you press the accelerator, longing to nudge that offensive bumper, just a little. That'll teach her (isn't it almost always a her?) to imply that you are a smug, self-righteous Pharisee.

Or you might see this on a friend's Facebook page: a cartoon of a pensive Christ under a heading that reads, "What would Jesus Not do?" He definitely would not Harass Single Moms, Beat Homosexuals or Picket Their Funerals, Join a Militia, Run a Network, Own A Weapon, Run for President, Hate His Enemies, Attack the Poor, Side With the Rich ... OK, you get the idea.

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The cartoon was linked from the Facebook page of Christians Tired of Being Misrepresented (dot com), a group that believes in loving unconditionally and not taking time to get the story straight. For example: "It is popular and politically correct in Christian circles to take a stand against homosexuality. So much so that Christianity today looks more like the world than a group of Christ followers." That would be news to the "popular" Christians who found themselves blackballed by the world for supporting California Proposition 8 against same-sex marriage. Or authors (like me) who know if they write a children's novel presenting a gay character unfavorably they can kiss the American Library Association goodbye.

But, before I start a group called Christians Tired of Being Misrepresented by Christians Tired of Being Misrepresented, it's worth remembering how Jesus was misrepresented in New Testament times. Everyone knows about the hypocritical Pharisees, who accused Him of being an impious show-off (John 9:16), a poor judge of character (Luke 7:39), and a glutton and a drunkard (Matthew 11:19) who hung out with undesirables (Matthew 9:10-11). However, His own disciples understood even less, touting Him as a scourge of the wicked (Luke 9:54), a scourge of the establishment (Matthew 3:7-12), or king of a restored Israel (Acts 1:6). One side championed holiness, the other social justice-rather like today. Which side was Jesus on?

Critics are correct to remind us that Jesus' strongest words were directed to the moralists, but they fail to distinguish between hypocritical lawyers and the law itself. Jesus upheld the law all the way to the cross, as His followers must. But we're as guilty of breaking it as the serial single mom or the homosexual activist. Paul had some harsh words for homosexuals, but he also called himself the chief of sinners. There's no question about where I stand, but I must continually question how I got there, and why I stay there, and what my attitude is toward the other side. Is being right more important to me than being in Christ?

Everyone needs reminding: Jesus is not on a side. Jesus is a side. Nobody owns Him; He owns us, whether we're members of His official fan club or not. To the right He says, "He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone." And to the left? "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." To all of us, He says, "If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross." That's the challenge for left and right: Are we beating a drum, or dragging a cross?

Email jcheaney@worldmag.com

Janie B. Cheaney
Janie B. Cheaney

Janie lives in Missouri, is a columnist for WORLD, writes novels for young adults, and is the author of the Wordsmith creative writing series. She also reviews books at RedeemedReader.com. Follow Janie on Twitter @jbcheaney.

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