You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? -Matthew 23:33
There’s an image of Jesus that’s been bothering me for some time.
It’s a pervasive image, apparently decades (or maybe even centuries) in the making: Jesus as a timid, sandal-wearing nice guy in flowing white robes…a friend to all. A Jesus who would take any and all punishment and wrongdoing without even a whimper or contrary word. In short, a walking doormat. A milquetoast.
This is an image that has been foisted on millions of believers, as a false model of how to live meekly and without complaint against any and all wrongdoing…and to also take on the responsibility of any offense found against us. An unrealistic image that, in the face of a harsh and evil world, would just be stomped on and extinguished.
And sure enough, there are only a few books out there that decry this misrepresentation. One such book is No More Christian Nice Guy by Paul Coughlin, which explains how living according to the misrepresented Jesus hurts us in our unnecessary, ungodly suffering, but also those around us. (He wrote No More Christian Nice Girl for women as well.)
The real Jesus–the model upon whom we, His followers, are supposed to emulate–was anything but a doormat. The real Jesus was bold, humorous, and outspoken. He was sarcastic. He’d be considered rude by today’s standards…but with a righteous anger, because all of these qualities would raise their heads only when God’s truth was being obstructed or challenged.
If Jesus were among us today, He would be That Guy who everyone would see coming and brace themselves, because they knew He would righteouly stir things up. And that’s a good thing. Just some of the things He did that are usually glossed over in favor of Soft Guy Jesus:
- He calls the scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites,” “fools and blind,” “whitewashed tombs,” “serpents,” and “brood of vipers”
- When the Pharisees try to trap Him, He asks them (who are the most learned of the Law), “Have you not read…?”
- He gets angry and indignant with His disciples, who try to keep little children from coming to Him
- At the temple, he makes a whip out of cords to drive out the sheep and cattle; scattered the money changers’ coins, and overturned their tables
- At the synagogue, He looks around angrily at the Pharisees, who would rather catch Him healing a man’s shriveled hand on the Sabbath (a no-no) than to do good. He heals the man anyway.
Don’t get me wrong: Jesus was also gentle, kind, compassionate, and loving. But He had an edge, which has been severely blunted in the portrayals of Him to believers worldwide. And that’s a shame. If we are to emulate Him as His followers, should we not also be passionate, and not oddly robotic and shrinking in our walk?
It took boldness, perseverance, and strength of Christ followers to plant churches throughout centuries of persecution. Today, it takes boldness and fortitude to walk and talk God’s truth in a world that increasingly calls us ignorant, morally backward dinosaurs. It takes passion to not meekly go along with the flow of the world, which goes against God’s truth.
Shatter the false image
So, to live true as followers of Christ, we need to strike a balance of all that God gives us in our hearts to make Him known. There are times to pick battles, to stand tall, to be gentle, and to be bold. We should look always to God’s Word, and His Son in His perfect walk, as our guide for living.