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by Daniel Darling
Jesus is still very popular these days, even at a time when Christianity seems to be facing more social marginalization. From political and social movements to kitschy products to bumper stickers, we’ve appropriated Jesus as a mascot for our favorite causes. But we have to wonder, is this the real Jesus of the Bible or a Jesus of our own making?
In Romans, the Apostle Paul teaches of Christ’s mission to call out a people and form them into His likeness, but it seems we are more interested in forming Jesus into our image. Even conservative, Bible-believing evangelicals are fond of making statements like, “The Jesus I know would . . . ” as if Jesus — who claimed to be the Triune God, one with the Father — can be easily molded into whatever we wish him to be.
Soon the Jesus we claim to worship looks strangely like the man in the mirror.
What are some ways we are tempted to mold Jesus, like clay, into whatever we want him to be? Here are 10 partial Jesus’ popular in Christian culture:
1. Guru Jesus
This is the Jesus of the enlightenment, the Jesus who existed in human history, but is not nearly as radical as that Jesus of the gospels. Guru Jesus is the wise, winsome, slightly supernatural figure who fits nicely alongside other religious titans like Buddah, Muhammad, Vishnu, and others. This is a safe Jesus, who will only ever tell us good, affirming, uplifting things, but doesn’t bother us with dangerous talk of the Kingdom of God.
But here’s the problem with Guru Jesus: not only does he defy the historical record and the claims of Jesus Himself, he’s also much less compelling than the Christ of Scripture. Guru Jesus doesn’t meet the deepest longings of the human experience, doesn’t answer the problem of evil, and offers no hope for future cosmic renewal.
2. Red Letter Jesus
This Jesus is in vogue among many well-meaning, progressive evangelicals. He’s a Jesus I’m tempted, at times, to embrace. He’s present in the kind of Christianity that only takes seriously those quotes of Jesus in the gospels that are marked out by Bible publishers in red ink.
What is convenient about this Jesus is that he replaces the so-called angry God of the Old Testament with a mostly peaceful, healing, non-controversial Jesus of justice. What’s more, he’s way more likeable than that irascible Apostle Paul who just doesn’t understand twenty-first century social norms.
There is only one problem with Red Letter Jesus…
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