Sometimes Jesus seems like a Rorschach test: different circumstances reflect different aspects about Jesus. At Christmas, baby Jesus symbolizes new life and salvation. At funerals, ministers quote Jesus’ pledge in Matthew 5:4 to comfort mourners, “God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” When injustice run abounds, Jesus says in Luke 16:15, “Then he said to them, ‘You like to look good in public, but God knows your evil hearts. What this world honors is an abomination in the sight of God.”
Fortunately, Jesus’ teachings give believers a sturdy foundation to help navigate rugged emotional states. Unfortunately, we can distort Jesus’ teachings, smashing his verses together with our secular worldview like misaligned puzzle pieces. In a post-truth age where feelings are king, a clear and present temptation exist to make Jesus into our image of Him: He becomes less savior Jesus and more buddy Jesus.
It’s easier to talk about gentle Jesus turning the other cheek, super Jesus rescuing the woman from being stoned, or non-judging Jesus associating with prostitutes and tax collectors. From agnostics to atheists, Jesus’ ability to interact with anyone from anywhere is universal. As Christians, it’s easy to empathize with these ideas. However, these ideas are only a shard of Jesus.
Without reading about Jesus in the Bible, a non-Biblical God gets handed down from generation to generation like a demented game of telephone, creating great millstones for stumbling.
Our own personal Jesus cannot be shaped by lazy interpretations. We must get to know the man who was crucified. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). This isn’t ninja Jesus or hippy Jesus, this is a fully grown savior.