Have you ever seen kids fighting over something they all desire?
Maybe they want to be on the “best” ball team and sides are being chosen. One side is much better than the other and everyone knows it. Of course everyone wants to be on the “best” team.
Maybe one group of kids seems to know something that the other kids don’t and the kids in the know are not going to tell anyone their secrets. Everyone wants to know the secrets.
Maybe one kid has something special, the best bike, the fanciest toy, the most exciting game and the other kids want that game too. Some can afford the best but some cannot. Some are members of the in-crowd and some are not.
Well, today it seems like this is what is happening with Christianity. Everyone wants to have Jesus on their side. Here are the sides.
You have the liberals and their Jesus.
You have the conservatives and their Jesus.
We are getting ready to plunge headlong into generalizations; for that I must apologize, but hang on; there is a point in all of this.
For you see, the liberal Jesus and the conservative Jesus don’t seem to be the same person.
In Pastor Hamilton’s book, this is the key point in why we have a lack of understanding in our culture today. It is a black and white issue so we think, but is it really? Maybe this could be a gray area. Pastor Hamilton addresses this division in his chapter entitled “Is Your Jesus Too Small.”
How do liberals see Jesus? He was a revolutionary. He came to earth to upend the social order. He wanted to lead people to justice and had a very radical idea of obedience to the will of God. His prime focus was helping those who were poor; those who were in need. When Jesus washed the feet of His Disciples, He was demonstrating radical servanthood. Liberals acknowledge Jesus as someone who sought to love others and in doing so He challenged society’s idea of racism and classism. Jesus went out of His way to associate with the outcasts of society. He invited women into His ministry which was a radical notion in His time. Liberals say He calls us to fight our sin of apathy, materialism and bigotry. Pastor Hamilton says what lots of liberals believe: “Of our two political parties in the United States today, Jesus would be most inclined to be a democrat” [Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White, 90].
For the liberal democrat, having this social justice Jesus on your side makes all the difference. As they read the Bible, they see Jesus quoting Luke 4:18 where He refers to Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim the release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.” Clearly the liberal pounces on the words “poor,” “release the captives,” “recovery of sight to the blind,” and “the oppressed go free.”
How do conservatives see Jesus? For them He is a personal Savior. He came to seek and save lost people, to die for the sins of the world. He offered His life that we might be forgiven and made right with God. They tend to focus on Jesus’ teaching that we must be “born again.” For conservative Christians, being a Christian starts with having a personal relationship with Jesus, a relationship that changes our hearts. While the liberal focuses almost exclusively on societal ills, the conservative [especially white conservative] worries about sexual sins, sexual purity, abortion, homosexuality and pornography. Especially since the 1980’s a large number of conservative Christians have believed that if Jesus was a registered voter in America today, He would be a republican.
Conservative Christians look at the Scripture from Matthew 11: 28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I think it is very unusual that people in this country all read the same Bible and they come to two very different conclusions.
But who is Jesus?
Is He the liberal champion of the downtrodden, the upholder of social justice?
Is He the Christ who came to earth to save our souls from sexual sin, abortion, homosexuality and pornography?
Well, in the next series of posts we will explore who has Jesus on their side; the liberal democrats or the conservative republicans.
Or just maybe all the kids have got it wrong…