This weekend Ike and I had dinner with some friends who had just seen Blue Like Jazz, the film adaptation of Donald Miller’s popular book. They both loved the movie and they anticipate it will start some much-needed conversations. As we munched on Portillo’s hot dogs at our dinner table together, we couldn’t help but dive into some of those discussions on our own.
In particular, we spent some time reflecting on the main character’s (Don) revelation that “Jesus isn’t like me.” In fact, Jesus isn’t like any of the “bad Christians” that Don encountered in the movie. By this he meant that, as much as Christians are supposed to embody Christ, they fail much of the time. Christians are called to reflect Jesus, but we are poor mirrors at best.
Jesus isn’t like us–because he is infinitely better.
Although this reality does not relieve Christians of the call to follow Jesus and witness to him as best we can (indeed, the power of the church’s witness cannot be overstated!), it does keep things in perspective. It reminds us that Christ, not Christians, is central to the Gospel, and that is a welcome reminder.
I needed that reminder today.
Every morning I start my day by reading over the latest headlines. One of the headlines I encountered this particular morning made my heart hurt. It wasn’t a big story by any means, but it involved a visible politician who is known for wearing Jesus on his sleeve, who did something that isn’t very Jesus-y. I’m sure some Christians wouldn’t even have a problem with what he did, but to me it was a witness-hindering decision. As I read the story I thought, “Why on earth would you do this when you are so vocal about your faith?” I felt so discouraged. Is THIS what people think it means to be a Christian?
It’s so easy to get stuck in that place of discouragement. Whenever un-Christian sound bites make their way into the news, I feel incredibly sad and heavy-hearted. That’s where I found myself this morning.
That is, until I reflected on the dinner conversation with my friends. I remembered that Jesus isn’t like me. He isn’t like that politician either, and that is great news. It is the most important news, in fact.
The fact that Jesus isn’t like us in some fundamental ways–namely, he was perfect in every good thing–is the reason why Jesus MUST be the center of our message. Our story and our mission must be about Jesus from first to last. When we fail to make him the center, then the Gospel message will be compromised to a degree far worse than any bad behavior could inflict. As important as it is to live consistently and faithfully, our job is to tell the watching world, “Look, it’s not really about us.”
It’s not about the politician in the news this morning. It’s not about Tim Tebow or Jeremy Lin. It’s not about Pat Robertson or Kirk Cameron. And it’s certainly not about me. It’s about Jesus.
Putting Jesus at the center keeps us from despairing when his followers misstep. As discouraging as hypocrisy is, our sin serves as the very evidence of WHY we need Jesus in the first place. That politician’s decision is why he needs Jesus. My own inability to obey God is why I need Jesus, and why he came to earth and died.
So while our own sin and the sin of other Christians should grieve us, just as it grieves God, it should also compel us to preach Christ more loudly. He is so much greater than any one of us and our broken attempts at following him. That is why we need him, that is why we love him, and that is why we can persevere in hope even when his followers fail. Because Jesus is not like me in the very best of all possible ways, and I hope you get to know him.