The modern age may be described as a quest for the authentic self.
Watch any amount of television aimed at children and you will be inundated with calls to “be yourself.” The hero discovers who they really are and their true identity is what they needed to achieve success.
But it’s not only on cartoons and kids’ shows, adults are overwhelmed with the message as well. The term “authentic” has doubled in usage among books since the 1920s and “authenticity” has nearly tripled.
But in this age when everyone is allowed to be themselves to the fullest extent imaginable, there’s one person who constantly doesn’t get that opportunity: Jesus.
We don’t give the Jesus the one thing we demand of others. We refuse to accept Jesus without trying to change Him more to our liking.
We read His words, but explain them away to fit our preconceived ideas. We sand off his rough edges to fit our mold.
For the progressives, Jesus is only about love and acceptance, ironically enough given that they often do not accept His teachings on topics like morality, sexuality, hell and Jesus being the only way for salvation.
For the fundamentalists, Jesus is exclusively focused on truth, even though they may ignore the truthfulness of His showing grace, extending mercy, pursuing justice, and calling for us to live lives of sacrificial love.
Elton John says he sees Jesus as “a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems.”
Your redneck uncle sees Jesus draped in an American flag, riding an eagle, dropping bombs on illegal immigrants and Muslims.
It’s so strange how the Jesus we like to picture somehow always looks like us. He condemns the sins we hate and ignores the sins we commit.
One of the best proofs that Christianity is not a man-made religion is that in many ways Jesus looks nothing like us.
The way He condemned all sins, not just the ones engaged in by people we don’t like. The way He forgave all sins, not just the ones we indulge in. It is completely not like us.
And that’s why we don’t allow Jesus to be Himself. He’s not like us. He challenges us and convicts us like no other person, yet He’s compelling, so we instinctively want Him “on our side.”
But it’s never been about Jesus being on our side.
In what many scholars see as a pre-incarnate visitation by Jesusin Joshua 5, the commander of the Lord’s armies appears before Joshua as the Israelite leader was sneaking up on a city they were preparing to attack.
Joshua, seeing an imposing figure with a sword, asks the obvious question, “Are you on our side or our enemies?” To which the person responded: “Neither.”
Jesus’ desire is not to join your side, but to have you join His. He is not waiting for you to reshape Him into your image; He’s longing to shape you into His.
The one person we refuse to allow them to be themselves is the one person we should desperately strive to be like.
Don’t refuse to Jesus what you demand for yourself. Recognize Him as who He is and allow Him to mold and shape you into His image and become the very person you were created to be.