When I scroll through my memory of Michael Jordan highlights, my mind generally focuses on a few amazing dunks and a couple of buzzer-beating shots.
It makes sense, that was MJ’s big thing. I mean, he’s known as “Air Jordan” for a reason.
Too often lost in my memory is the fact the dude was also named to the NBA All-Defensive First-Team nine times, as well as being named the 1988 NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
Those are great qualities and big part of his success as a player, but because I’m focused so much on the other aspects that made him great, and frankly make for better highlights, I tend to leave those out of my mental picture of the man.
Sometimes I do the same thing with Jesus.
Sometimes, I focus so much on Jesus’ love and acceptance, those easier-to-stomach highlights, I forget about the emphasis he placed on holiness and living by God’s standards.
Sometimes, I forget he often had strong words about those topics and instead, paint this picture of some sort of hippie, cruising around all carefree, passing out hugs and fish sandwiches without ever sharing a stern word.
Now, I like to think this is a problem stemming from good intentions. I mean, it’s easy to fall into swinging the pendulum a little too far in that direction, especially considering how mean spirited and judgmental some Christians and the Church often come across.
In fact, it seems there’s an entire movement of people within the Church that fall into this same trap of being so desperate to make sure the world sees the easy-going side of Jesus, they delete, or at the very least reword, certain events or things he said.
I believe this too stems from good intentions, but regardless, it paints an inaccurate picture of Jesus.
So I tried to come up with a few ways in which Jesus is occasionally depicted that just don’t give the full scope of who he is.
— Jesus wasn’t afraid to point out people’s sin and encourage them to do better.
We hear a lot about the time the teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus. It’s one of my favorite passages because it so clearly illustrates Jesus’ ability to show compassion for a person religious folks were coming down hard on.
But in that compassion, Jesus didn’t avoid talking about this woman’s sin and he didn’t avoid telling her it was time to leave that way of living.
He did a similar thing when he met the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar. He showed her love, but at the same time, let her know her social life didn’t match up with God’s intention for marriage.
I don’t know about you, but I generally don’t have the guts for those conversations, especially not with strangers. I typically shy away from straight up telling people what they should do and instead attempt to show them love in hopes of easing them along towards some level of self-realization.
But Jesus didn’t roll like that.
— Jesus wasn’t afraid to be “anti” something that he knew was wrong.
When Jesus entered the temple courts and found people marketing sacrifices to turn a profit, he flipped out. And also flipped a few tables. He took a firm stance against the wrongful acts he saw.
He also gave guidance to his disciples as to how they could judge which prophets they too should take a firm stance against by telling them to judge people by their fruits.
I hate the idea of judging people. I hate the idea of evaluating whether or not they are legit based on what they’re producing.
But, Jesus encouraged his followers to do so and take a stance against those in the wrong.
— Jesus wasn’t all about kicking all the laws to the curb
Truth be told, it’s kind of fun to picture Jesus as this rebel, blowing through town with complete disregard for the religious laws of his day.
But in reality, Jesus always followed those laws and even made of point of saying he did not come to destroy the law and encouraged his followers to seek lawful righteousness.
He also gave complete merit to the very scriptures from which those laws were generated by saying they can never be broken.
Jesus was a rebel of sorts, not in a way that meant tossing out God’s rules, but in a way of confirming and fulfilling them.
— Jesus wasn’t oblivious to the fact that not everyone was going to accept him
When Jesus sent the 12 disciples out, he knew there weren’t exactly going to be welcome parades everywhere they went. But he didn’t tell them to stand there, endlessly trying to convince people to welcome them and their message. He told them if people wouldn’t listen, to simply take off, wipe the dust from their feet, and move on the next one. On to the next one. On to the next one….Sorry, I had to.
He also didn’t mince words when he called out the rich young ruler for not being willing to be fully dedicated.
Now I like to think that guy eventually understood what Jesus was trying to say, but what I’ve always found interesting is that you don’t see Jesus chasing the dude down right then to convince him to change his mind and exchange his love for the world for salvation.
Of course you also don’t see Jesus comprising his message to somehow be more inline with the rich man’s agenda. He simply pointed out the barrier between the ruler and God, and left it at that.
Jesus wasn’t going to bend the truth just to make a person feel better and he wasn’t going to water it down simply to be accepted.
— Jesus wasn’t afraid to balance love and grace with discipline and righteousness.
I’ve rambled on far longer than I normally do in these posts, but if there is one over-arching idea here, I believe this is it.
Through his life, Jesus demonstrated the most powerful love for people the world has ever seen, but he did so without ever comprising. He never tickled ears or backed off of his message in order to gain acceptance, but yet still fully communicated that ridiculous amount of love in every step he took.
I’m not going to lie, trying to resemble any form of such balance is a crazy hard struggle for me. Keeping the pendulum from swinging too far one way or another, seems almost impossible at times.
But, I think it’s what I must strive to do because I need to strive to be like Jesus.
Not just highlight reel Jesus, full-length documentary Jesus.