Pastor Jamie Snyder was bothered by the bumper-sticker sentiment: "I like Jesus. I just don't like His followers." He concluded that "the reason so many people do not like followers of Jesus is because they are not like Jesus. By they, I mean we. By we, I mean I." With this sort of humility, and a desire to be like the real Jesus, he writes Like Jesus: Shattering Our False Images of the Real Christ.
Christians, he writes, tend to have a "Build-a-Jesus" mentality, creating the sort of Jesus we want to worship. Snyder describes "The American Jesus," "The Political Jesus," "The Fundamentalist Jesus," and "The Emergent Jesus." There are many other varieties, of course, depending on one's upbringing or theological hobby horses. (I just don't know how Snyder can write this chapter without referencing Ricky Bobby's prayer in Talledega Nights. He prays to "Dear Lord Baby Jesus." He says "I like the Christmas Jesus best," but tells his wife she can pray to "grown-up Jesus or teenage Jesus or bearded Jesus or whoever you want." Ricky's friend says he pictures Jesus in "a tuxedo t-shirt." His son says he pictures him as a ninja fighting off the evil samurai. It's a silly scene, a bit irreverent, but it illustrates Snyder's point oh, so well. Wow, that was a bit of a tangent. . . .)
Snyder's message can be pretty well summed up by his church's mission statement: "Love Jesus. Love like Jesus." If we want to be like Jesus, our compassion will lead to action. We will show our love for Jesus by obeying him. We will do what God calls us to do, "doing the right thing, not just avoiding the wrong thing."
And it's not just what we do, it's who we are. If we are following Jesus, we will love people like he did, and we will experience inner transformation. Snyder writes, "People are not going to mistake us for Jesus because we show up at a church building on Sunday morning. However, they will mistake us for Jesus when we love in a way that doesn't make sense, when we give beyond what is expected, when we take risks that do not seem rational. We resemble Jesus the most in the midst of active compassion." I especially like one of Snyder's measures to determine whether we are living like Jesus. He asks, Do "people of your town or city . . . eagerly approach you? Do people who are supposedly untouchable . . . come running to you, knowing you will offer a warm embrace and a touch of healing?"
I'm not there. I don't know many Christians who are. "Becoming like Jesus is an hourly, daily, weekly, monthly commitment one makes." People in Jesus' day said, in a variety of ways, "There is something about Jesus. . . ." As we imitate him and grow more intimate with him, people will say there is something about us, too.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!
2016 Reading Challenge: A book about Christian living