Every believer knows that our unending goal is to be Christ-like. But what does that really mean? It is safe to say that century to century the prevailing world culture puts an innate spin on our understanding of the Word of God and even how we see God Himself.
This twist can be traced to the fact that the default worldview, the way we see the world, is mostly constructed by the reigning socio-cultural norms, save and except there is a deliberate intervention hindering the global crowd-think machine. Chances are our view of God has been affected in some way or another, certainly aspects of the 21st century church have fallen prey to these trendy evil philosophies.
A bad trade
In the rebound from firebrand preaching that may have been legalistic and insensitive portraying a God as only being so holy that men melt, that stresses judgement and constantly skirts the edge of condemnation, with a big stick over your head waiting for you to make a mistake, we may have found ourselves in an equal and opposite error.
The world culture is now steeply hyper-graced, the pendulum has swung, painting a Jesus that wouldn’t hurt a fly, called the little children to himself, who defended the woman caught in the act of adultery, conveniently forgetting that he told her to “go and sin no more” (John chapter 8, verse 11).
Over the last generation the perception of God seems to have gone from melting
(men) to melted, weak and of no effect; from condemning to condoning and from ridiculously strict to ridiculously chill. In the later, secularism manufactures a God who is ok with sin (if people are consenting) who would never send someone to hell and who only blesses, never disciplines; kind of like a Heavenly Santa Clause. The true and living God is not like that at all.
Let’s be true to the Word
Even if you have never read the Old Testament, that displays the Lord who throws hailstones, fire and brimstone, who opens the Earth to eat those unfaithful to Him and kills the first born of all Egypt, if you just read the Gospels you will find that this “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” is a mythical, half-truth and half man. Now sometimes he is gentle, meek and mild, but that certainly isn’t the full story by any stretch of the imagination.
In reality He is as strong as He is gentle. He seems to me to be intense, kind, but harsh more often than you would think, especially to the proud; loving but also stern and emphatic. He called the little children to himself but also said that if anyone causes them to sin it would be better for a millstone to be tied around their necks and thrown into the sea! (Matthew chapter 18, verse 6)
More stern than many like
I think as a general guide He showed grace to the humble but was harsh with the proud, resisting and opposing them (1 Peter chapter 5, verse 5; James 4, verse 6). Describing the Lord, Proverbs chapter 3, verse 34 says, “He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.” And Jesus did just that, full of grace and truth. He is close to the broken hearted and oppressed but it would be wise to not mess with Him. The scriptures portray, dare I say, a divisive figure.
Matthew chapter 10, verse 34 to 39 says: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. 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.’ “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
Now he uses hyperbolic language, but He is communicating that persons will turn to Him and it may cause them to be ostracised and their previous relationships to spoil, even in the family unit, but loving God and living for Him is worth the social grief! These are harsh and heavy words, not a butter knife to spread love or a teddy bear to spread cheer, a sword to divide the sheep from the goats!
Concerning lust and the need to be absolutely serious in the fight against sin, in Matthew chapter 5 he challenged persons to chop off or gouge out offending body parts that causes people to sin! This was understandably not literal, but again, does that sound gentle, meek and mild to you? It sounds like someone who hates evil and wants desperately for us to live holy lives! But what about the politically correct culture obsessed with avoiding offence at all costs?
Once the disciples thought Jesus was being too offensive and harsh, they asked him in Matthew chapter 15, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.” He didn’t care, ouch!
He isn’t just the good shepherd, who leaves in search of the sheep but he also describes himself as the capstone stating “Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” (Matthew chapter 21, verse 43) In other words, those who deal poorly with Jesus will have an unapologetically terrible end one way or another!
Being as balanced as the Word
My aim here is to demonstrate the need for us to be aware of the forces at work, skewing our vision and our interpretation of the Word of God and God Himself. And the need to be true to the Word of God and balanced in our knowledge of the person of Jesus Christ. Our goal should be to be as balanced as the Word, not as balanced as the world culture!
Have we created an image of Jesus to suit our culture? A sanitised, neutralised, soft, mushy pillow of a man? An idol in our own globally curated image? May we face up to the full reality of who Jesus is, the Lion and the Lamb, full of grace and truth; who hated evil, loved people, His Father and the things of God and who came to “heal the broken hearted” (Luke chapter 4, verse 18) and “destroy the devil’s work” too (1 John chapter 3, verse 8).
Oh Lord, to truly be more like you.
Dr. Daniel Thomas is a medical doctor and Christian Advocate who loves the Lord deeply. He currently leads a youth organization called the Love March Movement which is committed to empowering the youth to fight for sexual purity and the family in Jamaica.