‘Jesus shaped’ nothin’

There is a lot of ‘talk’ in the blogesphere these days, as well in the churches, of a ‘Jesus shaped’ spirituality. “Doing” our best to walk like Jesus, to talk like Jesus, to act like Jesus, to do the things that Jesus told us to do.Embrace

That certainly wouldn’t be a bad way to live, would it?  Of course not, in fact it would be a great way to live!

There’s just one little problem. We flat out refuse to live that way.

 “What would Jesus do?” Well, first off, none of us knows what Jesus would do in any particular incident that might arise in our lives.  Secondly, we are not Jesus…we are us.

I have said it before in this blog that I am reminded of these things whenever I come across a homeless person that I will not take home and feed and clean up. The same homeless person that is in every city, large or small, that no other Christian will step outside of his comfort zone to take care of. The same homeless person that might have been saved from a life scrounging through trash cans, or from drug abuse, or from mental illness that comes with living alone on the streets.

With so many professed Christians in this country you’d think that there wouldn’t be any homeless left to wander the streets.

I do imagine that the ‘Jesus shapers’ have taken a large number of these poor folks off of the streets and into their homes. They are not concerned with anyone stealing their goods, or attacking them physically, for Jesus would not have feared those things. They are not concerned about having to spend a bit more of their hard earned money on a stranger if it means bringing someone back into society and giving them back their self respect and possibly a job and possibly getting them back to church or in one for the first time. They are not concerned about what other people in their family, or what their neighbors might think. Jesus certainly would not care about what others might think.

“Well, I don’t have to do all these ‘Jesus things’ perfectly, I just have to make an effort.”  What is that all about? To me, that kind of talk is a cop out. That kind of talk is feel good talk for the self. A kind of balm for the conscience. That kind of talk allows me to continue to play the game. That kind of talk is not countenanced when Jesus says, ” Be perfect as thy Father in Heaven is perfect.” What kind of games will we play with that one?  All kinds.

I have a better idea. Why don’t we let Jesus be Jesus, and we just settle for being us?

Why don’t we just live as best we can, doing the best we can, and trust that the Lord will be there with us in all things. Why don’t we realize that our job is not to try and impress the perfect God with our feeble efforts at emulating Him, but rather we are to live our lives and help our neighbors wherever possible. And when we fail to do so in a way befitting our calling then we are forgiven.

Isn’t that enough?

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34 Responses

  1. The homeless man example is, unfortunately, too true. I’m guilty as charged.

    Good article.

  2. Edgar,

    Me too. (guilty as charged…again)

    Thanks very much, Edgar. I appreciate your input.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    – Steve M.

  3. Quite frankly, all these people that want me to live like Jesus would be quite offended if I did. For one, I would only have time enough for them to dismiss them with biting sarcasm, and gut wrenching law. 2, I would be making way too much wine according to current legal code. 3. I would be hanging out with uncouth people.
    4. I think I would stink, and my beard would be unkempt, my teeth would be even more yellow than they are now.
    But more importantly, my wife really doesn’t like me hanging out with prostitutes and other women of loose morals. I’m not Jesus, the temptation is too great for me.

  4. Bror,

    I wonder how many of us could stand up to a real ‘Jesus shaped’ seminar given by the One Himself?

    Not too well, for the scriptures are full of ‘Jesus shaped’ principles (law) and I’ve never met anyone who even comes close, nor anyone that is even earnestly trying to. I know I am not.

    I’ve got to add that I am thankful for all “good” people wherever they are and whatever they do. But I think that is something different altogether.

    Maybe if I just go to one more seminar…yeah…that ought to do it…

    Thanks Bror!

    – Steve M

  5. Spot on, Bror.
    It words like that the remind me just how real, how “eartherned” the Lord of creation really is – a Saviour who truly identifies with our poverty to raise us from death to life. Now we begin to unveil a grace that is totally amazing!

  6. Hhhhmm…We are called to be imitators of Christ (1Cor. 11:1, Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ”). We are called to Christ likeness. So, unless I’m missing something, I disagree. I’m not one of these “Jesus shaped” people you’re talking about here as I don’t like that trendy mumbo-jumbo, I just know what Scripture says. As for the homeless people, not all of us are called to deal directly with homeless people – we all have different strengths and weakenesses (1Cor 12:12-26). One should look at oneself and find those strengths (gifts) and if they are not being employed to the glory of the Lord, some thought should be given to one’s life in reference to salvation. If someone doesn’t have the necessary skills (gifts) to deal with the homeless perhaps they should donate some cash to the local mission for these folks and be sure that the gifts and abilities they do have are being engaged fully to the glory of God. I kinda cringe when it is suggested we “do the best we can.” Why? We do what we do for the Lord out of love and gratitude. “Doing the best we can” I don’t beieve is the most biblical way of looking at it. Just a few thoughts…Perhaps we’re talking cross-purposes here…but i don’t think so.

  7. Russ,

    Good comments Russ. There are many scripture verses exhorting us to behave as Christ.

    Beyond that, there are passages from our Lord Himself telling us to “give up everything we own, or we cannot be His disciples.” (Luke 14:33)

    What do we do with that?

    The point I was making in the post is one of emphasis.

    If we are to emphasize our performance in the light of Christ we can unwittingly, with the best of intentions, create Pharisees amongst the believers.

    For those that preach the law for betterment, or for striving to be more like Jesus, will always water down the law to a managable state.

    This can easily create folks that actually believe they are doing a pretty good job at it (although “not perfectly”, they always seem to add).

    Or it creates a class of phonies, who are just playing the game lest they look like ordinary, run of the mill sinners.

    Or it drives people to the point of despairing of Christianity to the point that they walk out of the door and never come back.

    It is for these reasons the proper distinguishing of law and gospel is absolutely necessary.

    I don’t really think a large segment of the Church today understands the role and purposes of the law and the gospel (demand and promise, if you will) in scripture and in the life of the Christian, and also as far as the unbeliever is concerned.

    We (some of us in the Church) believe that the proper role of law in a sermon, or as we read a text, is to kill off the sinner to the self, that he or she might be raised again to new life upon the hearing of the gospel, and or the reception of the sacraments.

    I believe that the ‘Jesus shaped’ folks,God bless them, are putting the wrong em-PHA-sis on the wrong syl -LAB-LE.

    St. Paul reminds us in Romans 5:20 that the preaching of the law can’t make anyone better (where God is concerned), but only worse.

    But the gospel message will bring about the good works that the Spirit desires in the life of the believer.

    Russ, I think we are probably pretty much on the same page on this one. Or if not, maybe not all that far apart.

    Thanks very much, Russ!

    – Steve M.

  8. Russ,

    I furguut to mention that ye louk graand in yer kilt Laddie!

    Anyone that wants to take a look at a real Scotsman should bounce over to the ‘Reformed Renegade’ (Russ’ site…and a good one!)

  9. Jesus lived a sinless life during his ministry on earth. That is not possible for us—to be perfect. Jesus shows us many, many ways to be kind and loving to our neighbors and sharing God’s Word.

    Christians can feed, care, befriend the homeless and make their lives easier. Many people live on the streets because they desire to do so. Others are mentally ill.

    There are different roles and gifts for each person. Those who have access to a safe place to give the homeless a place to sleep help in that way. Others give them food, prayer, clothing, friendship and share the Gospel.

    I have thought about bringing a homeless person home, but I would never put children in harm’s way. Also the opposite sex issues. I do believe our society (locally) should provide the mentally ill with a studio where they could safely lay their head at night, enough food and health care, etc.

    Jesus focused on sharing God’s Kingdom and Baptism, caring for those who crossed His path in life, loving, encouraging them, comfort, healing, feed/cloth them (necessities). Nothing was elaborate. But, He also told them to ‘go and sin no more’.

  10. Steve wrote, “Why don’t we just live as best we can, doing the best we can, and trust that the Lord will be there with us in all things. Why don’t we realize that our job is not to try and impress the perfect God with our feeble efforts at emulating Him, but rather we are to live our lives and help our neighbors wherever possible. And when we fail to do so in a way befitting our calling then we are forgiven.

    Isn’t that enough?”

    Yes. The answer is yes.

  11. Magdalene,

    I like that answer (“Yes”)

    I like it a lot!

    I need to hear it…and hear it often!

    – Steve

  12. Russ wrote:
    “As for the homeless people, not all of us are called to deal directly with homeless people”.

    Really?
    That’s an interesting interpretation of Matthew 25:34-46.
    We are ALL called to such ministry – it’s all part of loving our neighbor. I find it fascinating how far we move ourselves from this –
    in a local church recently, a minister spent a weekend disguised as a tramp on his own church steps. The congregation almost totally snubbed him – imagine their surprise on the Sunday morning when the ‘new tramp’ strode up into the pulpit and revealed himself as someone they knew! Christ is often where we do not see Him.

  13. Howard,

    Why did you have to go and say that about the minister dressed up as a tramp?

    Now I’ll be checking closely to see if my pastor has donned a disguise. God help the poor beggars if they are legit…

  14. I’m fascinated at how often God tries to teach us this lesson.
    In the book of Acts, the Apostles ‘give themselves over’ to ministry to the flock – all well and good, we may think – what happens almost immediately? Luke then tells us all about Stephen, a man who ‘served at tables’ who was to become the instrument – by his preaching and martyrdom – which God would use to bring about the first ‘troubling’ in Saul(Acts 6&7).
    Poor Katie (Luther’s wife), would often find several dozen people around the family table at meal times, and many of the guests would be the poor and the overlooked. William Tyndale, the amazing English translator of the scriptures, would give time and his meager finances, almost everyday, to aid the sick and the poor around him.

  15. It isn’t so much that these people tell me to imitate Christ, but what they mean by that. As Russ well points out Paul does say “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” I’m more inclined to listen to Paul on this than some youth pastor of a Baptist Church wearing a now tattered, worn, faded and unfashionable WWJD bracelet. Paul at least knew Jesus. However, most who are trumpeting the Jesus shaped thing refuse to listen to Jesus long enough to be shaped by him. There to busy trying to do like Martha, but we know that Mary had the right idea. And I have the distinct impression that these people would be offended by Jesus, as much as they are of Paul, were they to meet him. They in most cases anyway, totally ignore Jesus when they don’t like what he says, most especially when he says things like “This is my Body, This is my Blood, given for you for the forgiveness of sins.” (A topic to which I blogged today.) In truth they often form an idol in their own image and call it Jesus.If they wanted to be shaped by Jesus, they would spend more time with Him where He has promised to be, in His word, and in with and under the bread and wine.
    Really they treat Jesus the same way most Calvinists treat Luther, they like to trumpet him as a hero, and erect statues in his honor, but would rather not spend five minutes reading him. Meanwhile they think he was in essencial agreement with Calvin.

  16. Howard,

    To be human is to help those around us. I believe that’s what our Christian freedom is for. It frees us from the tedious, pious task of trying to imitate the Savior of the world in every thought and deed, so that we might not be bound by those religious exercises.

    Now we are free to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked and visit those in prison…as ourselves…human beings, and children of the living God.

    God bless all those who serve their fellow man, whether they be Christian or not.

  17. Bror,

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, Bror. This ‘Jesus shaped’ “religious activity” is bound to flourish, in one form or another without a proper understanding of the sacraments.

    A proper understanding of the sacraments places Christ and His work for us at the ‘center’. An improper understanding of the sacraments puts man back at the ‘center’.

  18. “I believe that’s what our Christian freedom is for. It frees us from the tedious, pious task of trying to imitate the Savior of the world in every thought and deed, so that we might not be bound by those religious exercises”.

    It’s at moment like these that you begin to realize afresh the inadequacy of internet conversations! I’m really not interested in advocating some manner of dutiful social works program (based around what someone wishes to dictate we ‘must do’), but when Christ is amongst us, we simply will genuinely begin to love – it will be as ‘natural’ as a tree bearing leaves or a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Religion is essentially when we set up all the ‘go here’ and ‘do this’ arrows – when, as Bror touches on, only one thing is truly necessary.

  19. Howard,

    I’m not sure where my comments went wrong, but I was agreeing with every word you said.

    We have freedom (because of Christ) from religion and freedom for the neighbor…or not!

    I quite often choose the “or not”. But as a Christian, I don’t have ‘to do’ anything.

    That last sentence just drives the Evangelicals up the wall.

    Thanks, my Friend!

    – Steve

  20. You’re welcome, Steve!
    (By the way, I realized you were not disagreeing with me – using the phrase ‘christian freedom’ made that clear – I just to make it clear that whilst I’m very for helping those around us, it needs to be from the imperative of a faith that’s motivated by grace, not merely fear or some other compulsion).

  21. Howard, I stand by what I said except I would change the word “called” for “gifted”. If we were all gifted to do everything, which clearly we’re not and Paul tell us so in the verses previously mentioned, we’d be nothing more than automatons. Be careful, you may be painting yourself into a sinful corner that you cannot get out of. You and I could both write lists of things we could be doing that we are not. Personally, in my travels, I never see homeless people. So what are you saying, I should track them down so I can help them? Whether or not helping the homeless is where my gifts lie I would have to give up other things in my life right now to go out of my way to help them, like giving the fullness of my time to my employer and to my family which would also be sin. God has put each of us in an environment where we are to serve, i.e., at home, church and work. Unless we are led by the Spirit to work with the homeless (because we know we are gifted in that area), we should serve within that environment. I would also say the same thing of you, that’s an interesting interpretation of Matt 25:34-46 As for the example of the pastor on his church steps, of course that is wrong but its not the norm either, is it? . By the way, how does one recognize a homeless person? Are you sure?

  22. I need to hear it…and hear it often!
    – Steve

    Steve,

    You and your site do just that… along with the Lutheran Church. Blessings

  23. Bror, Good comments 2:35 p.m.

    Jesus and John the Baptist stood out among society (and His followers). They preached to all who would listen, they dressed different (John, anyway) and did strange things. They were also courageous and spoke up and out against leaderships. If they appeared today doing these things, people would think they were touched in some odd way.

    Many homeless people appear to look mean, or harmful, but they are not. Many are mentally ill. Even those who walk around drunk, to give them a bag of food and/or clothing, a kind word that God loves them, or ask them if they need anything… they appreciate it. They appreciate knowing that some notices them and cares about them.

  24. “I stand by what I said except I would change the word “called” for “gifted”. If we were all gifted to do everything, which clearly we’re not and Paul tell us so in the verses previously mentioned, we’d be nothing more than automatons”.

    Russ, you appear to be talking here about natural gifts (i.e. our own particular talents and abilities). I’m not even sure that the acts of mercy I’m referring to really are ‘our own’ in that sense at all, but properly understood, may well prove to be ‘charisma’ (grace gifts) in the widest possible sense – moments of love which God bestows upon the world, using us in those moments as instruments ‘captured’ in the very works He has predestined for us to do (I’m certain that these manner of works are because of the love of God being shed abroad in our hearts). God ‘works in us’ compassion that is beyond our natural gifts or inclinations. That, I think, explains those moments when something almost uncanny can occur, and it probably isn’t even limited to believers (in the same manner that amazing ‘natural’ abilities have bestowed upon manner who never – so far as we can tell – come to a faith in Christ).

    “So what are you saying, I should track them down so I can help them? Whether or not helping the homeless is where my gifts lie I would have to give up other things in my life right now to go out of my way to help them, like giving the fullness of my time to my employer and to my family which would also be sin”.

    I wasn’t, in any way, seeking to make a rod for anyone’s back – sorry if it came over that way – I merely recognize the fact that when Christ works amongst us then the world will encounter a richness, a content which substantiates love in a manner which cannot be ignored, and actions of mercy may well be an aspect of such a revelation.

    “By the way, how does one recognize a homeless person?”

    Again, I’m not seeking to write an instruction manual – I’m merely saying that one of the defining factors of how we ‘minister’ our faith to others will be through the care we show to those who need such aid. Loving our neighbor includes our wife or family or those we work with, but it also may well include those outside of such definitions.

  25. Howard,

    I love the story about a minister spending a weekend disguised as a tramp on his own church steps. That is a great story.

  26. Hello all

    You know what I find truly amusing, is the Idea that people actually think by reading the Bible they can know all about a certain persons life. Like really, I have a hard time knowing everything about my wife and I wake up beside her every morning. To honestly think I can know all about Jesus the person……well I say that is hooey. What we relate to in the Bible, is the idea of the greatness of God(aka. Jesus). Oh and what a wonderful Idea it is. The story tellers weaved a magical tale which has transfixed many for millenia.

  27. Hello John,

    It’s a pleasure to have you drop in on us and share your thoughts.

    No doubt that for many it is a magical tale woven by men.

    But for others it is a story that grips them by the heart and just won’t let go. This story of a man that lived, and loved, and died for us, paying the price of our iniquity that we might live again one day with the God who created us, is a story that has transformed the lives of countless millions.

    Almost every hospital in this country was started by believing Christians.

    Out of the first 119 universites and colleges, 104 of them were founded by Christians.

    It is trus that many do not believe in God, or the God of the Bible, and for those people… there is no God. But for those of us who lives have been transformed by a loving God, Jesus Christ remains our one sure Hope.

    That death on the cross was for everyone, even those that don’t believe. I hope and pray that by the grace of God, more people will one day hear the message of love and forgiveness that has transformed my life.

    Whether one believes in the living God, Jesus Christ, or not is not my business. My business is to proclaim His love and forgiveness to sinners, just as I am one, that they too might have everlasting life with a God that loves them so much that He was willing to give His own life for those that would openly mock Him and spit in His face, and then put Him to death.

    Now that’s love. Love that is so unlike anything that we know… that we would never have cooked it up!

    Take care, John.

    – Steve M.

  28. I love the conversations going on at your blog, Steve! Thank God someone has the energy, as I seem to have completely lost all energy!

    Great post, thanks for writing it.

  29. L.L.,

    Glad you are enjoying the exchange of ideas and the proclamation of the Word.

    I appreciate the input from all the people that check in now and then. It makes things on ‘the old Adam’ much more interesting and stimulating.

    I know you’re getting ready for a trip to the mountains. I am jealous. You’d better be careful up there, I hear the bears are always on the lookout for cute Lutheran gals with new hairdo’s.

    Your paisano,

    Steve

  30. Yeah, let’s hope they don’t want a little Italian! (Ba-dump-BUMP!)

  31. You’d better leave the checkered tablecloth at home!

  32. Steve,
    This is Tim over at Sacrosanct Gospel. Good post broseph. Two years ago, after working with youth for 20 years, I stuck my head up out of the sand and starting looking around. Somehow, the Emergent movement caught me completely by surprise. I’m starting to catch up. There are a lot of things going on with that movement, but especially with the Bell, Sweet, McClaren branch, there seems to be a sort of “Law Renewal.” There is a lot of emphasis on Kingdom and on living as Kingdom Citizens and feeding the poor and saving the world. That kind of shtick. On one hand, I like it – it emphasizes a much more ‘Biblical’ version of Law than the “WWJD bracelet-wear a t-shirt for Jesus” version that preceded it. However, it is still Law; Law that, if it serves its purpose well, should tutor us right back to Jesus. That’s what all Biblical Law should do. If we, for one moment, hear Jesus’ sermon on the mount and say, ‘I think I can do that’, then we have not heard Jesus correctly. Your post reminds us of this truth. We must live by ‘His Righteousness’ for it is Christ who will and works within us. He is the author and perfector of our faith. He forms himself in us – we do not form ourselves. Jesus will change the world. He is the Savior. Not us. We cannot save ourselves. That’s the Gospel.
    I have a recently posted a poem along these lines. Maybe you’d be interested.
    http://sacrosanctgospel.wordpress.com/2008/07/04/world-changer-a-poem-by-tim-melton/

  33. I just read back over my post. Sorry. I think went from ‘commenting’ to ‘preaching’. Oops.

  34. Hello Tim,

    Thanks for your insightful comments on the law, and Jesus Christ.

    You have hit the nail on the head when you rightly state that the purpose of the law is to drive us to Christ.

    As far as changing the world goes, well, we can make a difference. We can make a difference in the lives of those we help and love along the way. Even non-believers can make a difference. There are ‘good people’ doing good things for others all the time. These acts of human kindness can and do make a difference in peoples lives here on earth.

    Our actions here, however, are just that..here. Jesus Christ gives us something that none of us could ever find here. He gives us true life, the forgiveness of sins, and salvation. He is what is truly needed. The “Bread of Life” that comes down from Heaven.”

    He frees us from the law that we might jump right back into the world (freely) to make changes wherever we can.

    We all do this, to a greater or lesser degree. The Christian is absolutely free to work at the soup kitchen everyday of the week, or lay on the couch and watch ballgames all week. Neither one affects God’s love for him in Christ one way or the other.

    When one puts the whip of the law on another, ‘you know, since you are a Christian, you really shouldn’t lay around and watch games all day, but should instead be working at the soup kitchen’ , one is taking away the freedom won on the cross and putting the person back under a yoke of slavery…with the best of intentions.

    We all have our works to do in life (that is for sure), but before we get up in the morning and line up those works one way or the other, God’s love for us is already there. We belong to Him.

    Great comments, Tim! Great poem! You are a talented guy! Keep up the good work (not that you ‘have to’)!

    – Steve M.

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