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Air Brushed Christ

Jesus is our savior not because he was superman but because in the midst of being human he knew how to remain connected to God.

One of the goals of a Christian is to be changed into the likeness of Jesus Christ.  On my desk I have a copy of Thomas a Kempis “Imitation of Christ.” One can hardly read a page of Kempis’ meditations without falling in love with Jesus and wanting to imitate his nature. But I see a problem in all that.

Our nature, I was taught, is creaturely and carnal and can never approach that of Jesus. I get that.  Last night, moments after talking with my wife about changing my eating habits for the better, I ordered fried sushi!  Just minutes after a serious conversation about improving myself I behaved as if we had never spoken.  My nature is carnal, but Jesus–not so much! But is it really true that Jesus never struggled with the same things as you and I?

I would argue that the Jesus we know today has become a creature of superhuman powers.  The image we carry in our mind isn’t anything of a man like you or me.  This person could never stumble or fall.  Jesus has become the miracle worker, the man who walked on water, the man who raised people from the dead–someone so totally unlike you and me that he could never begin to understand, much less comprehend, what it is like to live as an ordinary human being. And that leads me to my point about airbrushing.

Our views of Jesus today are similar to the desires of many of today’s young men and women who seek the physical perfection of the models they see  in magazines. Few realize that the standard they set for themselves is based upon a fiction that is the result of countless hours of airbrushed “improvements.” Have we airbrushed Jesus?

It seems that nowadays that Jesus message is thought unworthy unless it is tied to miracles and his rising from the dead. But I would like to ask you a question, “Would Jesus message be worth following if none of the miracles attributed to him were true?” Does his message stand–or must he become an airbrushed Superman?

In my experience, Jesus followers are uncomfortable and downright resistant to considering that Jesus may well have been more like us than unlike us.  What if instead of being the Superman we portray him to be, he was a Son of God in the same way as you or I. What if he just saw more life more clearly but struggled just as much as you or I.  What if he had his good days and bad days and ate sushi–just moments after saying he was watching his weight?

Airbrushing Jesus does neither you or I any favors. It sets us up for failure to pointlessly strive after centuries of narrative hyperbole that is more likely fictitious than true. Instead, in those moments when you feel depressed and forlorn look to the Jesus who could feel the same way.  When you get angry–know that Jesus did too!  Jesus is our savior not because he was superman but because in the midst of being human he knew how to remain connected to God.

There is a Jesus we can follow–it’s the one that does his best and is made to suffer for it.  It’s the man who lived in a corrupt system and tried to call it out.  It’s the man who gives  love and mercy a chance when everyone else around him wants to be cruel. It’s the man who was criticized for daring to reaching out to women, children, sick people, and outcasts.  It’s the man who criticized the religious zealots for their hypocrisy.  If you want to follow someone–follow that guy instead of the airbrushed perfected one we’ve created over the ages.