Each culture and each generation has had its own version of Jesus. Some have pictured Jesus as a smiling “do-gooder” going from town to town healing and helping, loving and laughing His way through life like a fairy spreads pixie dust and waves her magic wand. Other groups have chosen versions of Jesus that seem to be stuck in a Shakespearian soliloquy, delivering brilliantly crafted speeches to all who would listen. Some have tried to combine the two representing Him as a great orator worthy of respect while at the same time approachable and rather common.
What did Jesus act like?
We have trouble imagining that Jesus, like the rest of us, had to take time to remove the by-products of eating and drinking (notice I tried to take the edge off so I wouldn’t offend people with reality). We are more comfortable with the idea that He did not burp or pass gas and He always used the right utensil for each course of His meal. He sipped His tea, pinky finger up, without slurping and had perfect posture when sitting in His chair at the dinner table. This upper class version of our Saviour checks all the boxes required to be the King of England. He is known as the King of Kings but when Jesus walked this earth they didn’t have the utensils we have, use fine china tea cups or sit in chairs at the dinner table.
What did Jesus look like?
For North Americas and any other former colonies of Britain we know what the “real” Jesus looked like. We have seen His picture in our Bibles and hanging on church walls. I guess the best description of these portraits is the “handsome Jesus” look with His long blond hair and rugged features. Other paintings use a similar looking Jesus but in different scenes. One of my favourites is the one I call the “young Santa Jesus” look from the “let the little children come to me” Bible story. You know the one with the bearded man with children on His lap. It’s kind of how I picture Santa before the grey hair and overeating dominated His appearance. In all these pictures it appears the virgin birth and the fully God/fully man combination somehow made Jesus, a homeless Jew with very little money who lived in a hot climate with lots of sun, into a white blond guy with a perfectly trimmed beard and combed hair.
How should we describe Jesus to the rest of the world?
The Jesus we feel most comfortable with is most likely the Jesus we will describe to others.
There’s the “no one can one up Him” Jesus; He came back from the dead, top that.
There’s the “most popular guy” Jesus; He turned water into wine, fed the five thousand and the four thousand and told great stories. Who wouldn’t attend His parties?
There’s also the “scare the hell out of people” Jesus. If you don’t do everything on the list He will get angry and make you the meat at the longest barbeque ever held.
There is the “As Seen on TV” Jesus. With big budgets and small bank accounts there was no way to keep jets in the sky or faith healers on the airwaves without a strategic marketing plan. The “As Seen on TV” Jesus is the solution to every problem you have ever had and the provider of the means to get everything you need if you just send money, operators are standing by.
There’s the “glitz and glamour Jesus” seen in well-rehearsed, slickly produced church presentations with all the lighting and special effects.
There’s the “everyone is good” Jesus, no talk of hell, sin or judgement.
There’s the “do good deeds” Jesus who promotes what is often called the social gospel, although the gospel message is usually not a part of it.
I am not against presenting the gospel with excellence, or avoiding overwhelming people with a message of condemnation. I believe the Bible is clear about acting out our faith by helping people. Everything we do as followers of Christ presents a picture of the one we follow, which for lack of a better term, is marketing. Striving to represent your faith effectively in your day-to-day encounters and live out your faith as an ambassador for Christ is not a bad thing. As a church, effectively communicating and demonstrating the truth of the gospel is a must. The problem starts when we make the shift from obediently representing Jesus to creating a marketing strategy to better “sell” people on Jesus. In marketing, something is always being played up to make the sale, while other less attractive things are ignored. Truth is at the core of any good marketing strategy but lies of omission are what make it effective.
How to make your faith [Jesus] marketable (this should be offensive to Christ followers) *
- Present your faith in an ambiguous way that will appeal to the largest group of people.
- Make sure that the faith you present appears to have room for all aspects of people’s current lifestyle.
- Make sure they can see this faith system is perfect for them, as if they are all that matters and all their needs, wants and desires, as they perceive them, will be met.
- Everything associated with your faith must be in perfect working order and appear to create no unwanted issues.
- Cover up all signs that there is an ongoing commitment and required effort if you want to be a part of this faith.
- Avoid drawing attention to the not so glitzy and glamourous parts of your faith especially the fact that God is the one who must be in control.
…He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. Isaiah 53:2b (NIV)
* “How to make your faith [Jesus] marketable” list is taken from the book Blueprint by J David Peever (currently seeking publisher)