One of the most troubling aspects of the "dialogue" we are currently engaged in in our society, particularly as tragic events continue to occur and persons on both sides of whatever issue continue to demonize the other, is how prominent a role Jesus seems to play in the debate. Yes, you heard right: I called this "troubling."
The problem is not so much that people want to talk about Jesus; we ought to be talking about Jesus. All the time. The problem is that people are wanting Jesus to do the talking, and somewhere in all of this, both His voice and our voices are being warped into things they were never meant to be.
You don't have to look far to see images of Jesus on the social media landscape, always seeming to take up one side of the argument or the other. Always tending to side with one people over another. Always doing things that Jesus would never actually do, as though He actually once did them.
There are people who are using Jesus to draw lines; Jesus never drew lines. There are people using Jesus to judge and condemn; there's not one example of this in the Gospels. In fact, in the moments when the people begged Jesus to judge and condemn, He judged and condemned...them. You hypocrites! You snakes! In the home of Simon, a known degraded woman grabbed onto His feet, and when Simon demanded that Jesus say something about this spectacle, He did: He chastised Simon! Let's be clear about something here, and the Scriptures are equally clear about this - in Christ, there is no condemnation. So stop pretending that Jesus takes your side.
What's happened is that we've come to the place where we're pretty sure that Jesus would be saying the same things we're saying, that He somehow copies our tone, that He has our heart. No longer are we searching to say the things that Jesus would say. No longer are we looking to follow. No, Jesus is our follower. He's on our side of the street. He's on our line of the protest. He's where we are.
Whatever happened to our wanting to be where He is?
And what's troubling about all of this is that we've completely lost it. We've turned Jesus into mere words. We've turned Him into one more voice on our platforms. We've twisted His words so that it seems that this is all there is of Him - sound teaching, timeless moral advice, and an unwavering commitment to our position.
Jesus did not come to this earth, walk these roads, break bread with sinners, carry His Cross to Golgotha, be crucified, died, and raised to life to become a meme.
He did not live a life of our common "wisdom," declaring that if we should ever be so inclined, if we should ever find such a need, that we should do as He said. Jesus often pleaded, "Listen," but He never concluded, "Do as I say." For Jesus, this life He lived was wholly "Do what I do."
He showed us how. He showed us how to love with extravagant grace and tender truth. He showed us how to interact with persons we don't quite get along with. He showed us how to walk these dusty roads. He showed us how to listen, how to speak, and how little good something like speaking does. And we've lost all that.
We've lost all that because we're too busy building our walls rather than tearing them down. (Yes, double meaning here fully intended.) We've lost all that because His calloused hands have become our tender ones, no longer doing the hard work in the world but sitting all day behind our screens, tapping on our keyboards as though anything we have to say is anything at all.
Look at His hands. Look at yours. There's no comparison. His hands show the work, the real work, of being engaged in this world. They are the hands of a carpenter, a Man who built things for a living. They are the hands of a traveler, always covered in a thin layer of dirt and dust. They are the hands that caught fish and broke bread and gave more than they ever received. They are the hands that were pierced and broken and bled for this world.
Now look at yours. What do you have to show for yourself? The beginnings of arthritis, perhaps. A little touch of carpal tunnel. You've probably "engaged" this culture war without even breaking a nail.
Good for you.
But let's not pretend that's Jesus. Let's not pretend that's the Jesus way. Jesus never just sat around talking. He didn't enter into the debates. He entered into hearts and lives. He got His hands dirty. And when it comes to figuring out what Jesus has to say about this broken, messed-up, wounded world we live in, it's not about what He said at all. It's about what He did. It's about what He's doing.
What are you doing? What are we doing?
Let's stop building walls and start carrying crosses. Let's stop debating and start loving. Let's stop drawing lines and start reaching across the table, breaking bread with the persons we disagree with, and condemning those who would have us condemn others.
And for God's sake, stop with all the Jesus memes. Please.