Virtually everyone wants to claim Jesus.
Conservatives want Jesus. Progressives want Jesus. I’ve even seen atheists appeal to Jesus.
Everyone wants Jesus on their side … as long as you get to limit who Jesus actually is.
I’ve heard numerous people say things like: “I’m fine with Jesus. I just don’t want someone telling me how to live my life.”
This is one of the ways people communicate they’re “spiritual, but not religious.” It sounds loving and accepting to embrace Jesus, but reject strict authoritarianism.
It sounds so modern, so Western, so easy, so exactly what we want to hear—and so completely wrong.
If you don’t want someone telling you how to live your life, you aren’t actually fine with Jesus. He spent much of His ministry leading people to change how they live.
Before he met Jesus in Luke 19, Zaccheus was a greedy tax collector who stole from those around him. He saw success as having more money than those around Him.
After his encounter with Jesus, he became a follower of Christ who gave generously to those around him. Zaccheus’ whole life was radically changed when he met Jesus and realized success meant so much more than money.
The Pharisees threw a woman caught in adultery at the feet of Jesus in John 8. They were using her just as much as the conveniently missing adulterous husband. The Pharisees didn’t see her as a person. They saw her and her sin as a way to trap Jesus.
But Jesus saw her as an individual created in God’s image who need to be freed from those accusing her and her own sin. After assuring her he was not condemning her, Jesus challenged her to live differently—”Go and sin no more.”
When he meets the woman at the well in John 4, Jesus speaks to her about living water and points out her own failed attempts to satisfy her thirst with men.
He tells her that she’s had five husbands and she’s living with another man now. Then he encourages her to become a true worshiper—those who worship in Spirit and in truth.
Think about every time Jesus spoke with the Pharisees. Was He content to leave them as they were or was He constantly calling them to leave behind their life of judgmentalism?
They sought to elevate themselves by casting down others. Jesus wanted them to realize the pointlessness of their pursuits and find their identity in Him.
The one thing each of these had in common—Zaccheus, the woman caught in adultery, the woman at the well, the Pharisees—is that Jesus told them they should live differently.
More than likely, you appreciate some of those more than others. You may resonate with Jesus’ confrontation of the moral failings of the two women, but bristle as His challenging the economics of Zacchaeus or the religious purity of the Pharisees.
Or maybe, you’re the opposite. You are completely on board with Jesus sticking it to the powerful men of society, but not as comfortable with how He asked women to view their bodies in a different light.
That’s the point. Despite what we often try to do in modern Western culture, Jesus is not a bendable figure we can shape to our whims.
We want to bend Jesus into our image instead of worshipping Him as the One who created us in His image.
It’s so strange how the Jesus we like to picture somehow always looks like us and condemns the sins we hate and ignores the sins we commit.
Yet the actual Jesus condemned all sins, not just the ones engaged in by people we don’t like. He forgave all sins, not just the ones we indulge in.
That’s what makes Him so intriguing and part of why we all want to claim Jesus as His own. But He doesn’t give us that option. We cannot claim Him, we can only be claimed by Him.
And when He claims us, when we become His, we do not get to refuse His instructions on our life. Jesus is someone who tells people exactly how they should live their lives.
That’s not something new. It’s always been who He is. Our only choice is whether we recognize Him for who He is or not.