Anytime a policy, doctrine, cultural element, or action happens that meets with our disapproval, we seem pretty quick to claim “Jesus would never do that!” or some variation thereof. There’s a host of blog posts touching on the issue (notably the Trimble “Stop Pretending Christ was Accepting of Everyone” and the plethora of responses). Yet, I think we typically miss the point when we jump to assert Christ’s presence on our team.
As a friend cautioned recently, let’s not make the Church (or Christ) in our political image. I am definitely guilty of this. With how embedded Mormonism is in my life, it is only natural that it should shape my thoughts and opinions on things in life generally, even outside strictly religious spheres.
Yet, I think we deny Christ the complexity that a human being (albeit an exalted one) has when we claim to know unequivocally what He would do in any given situation. Not that we shouldn’t think about and strive to understand how Christ would act (since that’s like the entire point in having him as our exemplar), but that we should be careful with our certainty regarding what Christ would do.
To use a somewhat silly example (devoid of much of the controversial charge more potent examples may illicit), a friend once asked me if I would watch the movies I do if Jesus was in the room. My response was (and still remains) conflicted. Half of me wants to say, sure. I’d offer him some popcorn and a cold root beer, while inviting him to join me. The other half is like, “Dude. Jesus just walked in the room and you’re just going to chill with him and watch a movie? Really? What about all your questions and concerns? He’s omniscient. You could ask him ANYTHING and you’re just going to keep watching Scott Pilgrim vs. The World? Really?”
Honestly, I don’t know what I would do. Or if Jesus would ever watch a movie or read a book, for kicks (and maybe a giggle or two. Does he giggle? Or is it more of a guffaw? Perhaps a snort?). I’d probably just give him a hug and he’d look at me with a twinkle in his eye, remark snarkily about something I should have done, but didn’t or shouldn’t have, but did. Then we’ll go get some pizza and chat about the BIG questions (do I get to eat in Heaven, what is Kolob like, gay marriage, role of women, what’s the deal with the priesthood, was there really a talking donkey, is the 3-hr block an eternal principle, etc).
I have ideas as to what he’d say in answer to most of those questions and countless more, but I’m not incredibly confident that I’ve guessed right. I mean, the conclusions I’ve come to feel right, but maybe I’m just totally off base out to lunch (to combine a couple of delightful phrases of figurative language). Perhaps other people just know Jesus better than I do, but I don’t get the guy.
Anyone that says I’ve gotta hate my father, mother, wife, kids, brothers, and sisters or I’m not his disciple (Luke 14:26), while stating that he is love is a complicated figure. Or instructs me to “make love, not war,” while reminding me that he came not to send peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34) (oh wait, only one of those was Jesus…the other was just a guy that was bigger than Jesus). There are just some complex, seemingly paradoxical ideas present within this one guy. The Jesus I’m tempted to create would not talk about sending swords, but that’s not reality. The reality is more complex. And therefore, I don’t know what Jesus would always do.
Even in situations that seem fairly comparable, there is interpretation that needs to take place and since the scriptures rarely contain passages explaining Christ’s motivations and all the considerations that he made in each situation, we are left to extrapolate from the text. This is a meaningful, wonderful process, but one that is inherently open to error. Take Christ and the adulteress.
A fantastic story. Christ is drawing in the dirt, the Pharisees come with a woman that they caught in the act of adultery and ask what should happen to her. Christ keeps drawing and says, whoever is without sin can throw the first stone. All the Pharisees peace out, and Christ turns to the woman, asks where her accusers are, she replies that there are none, and Christ says he doesn’t condemn her and invites her to go and sin no more.
Now, what is the moral of the story? Why wasn’t she condemned? She had sinned right? Shouldn’t there be some condemnation? Had she repented? Was it because the sin that led to her situation was greater than her sin? Are we not supposed to judge? Should we never condemn others or make judgment calls on their worthiness or spirituality?
Perhaps more divisive is Christ and the money changers in the temple. Why did Christ come in and throw the tables on the ground (besides wishing the ground a happy birthday)? Was it the location? The practice itself? Because Jesus is actually a socialist? Should I go into Wall Street and start flipping over any and all tables I see?
Perhaps I am alone in my lack of certainty as to what Jesus would do. But I think we underestimate the difficulty of knowing what someone that lived 2000 years ago, of whom we have a record of a small bit of a roughly 3-year time span in his more than thirty years of life. The question is definitely worth asking. But maybe we should be a bit less sure of the answers. I mean, what would Jesus really do?
Would he surf the Internet? Watch cat videos? Netflix and chill? Take Buzzfeed quizzes? Correct malignant falsehoods that are rampaging around the interwebs? Troll youtube comment sections? Hang out in soup kitchens? Party at Pride? Give that homeless man on the corner $50? Read a book? Shave his beard? Cheer for the Utes on game day? Walk on the freshly manicured grass at his University?
You know, I just don’t know. I can guess and hope, but honestly, I don’t know what Jesus would do, or what I would do if He showed up. But I’ll keep doing my best to do what Jesus would. To love those around me, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. And maybe to send them a sword (if it’s a lightsaber, I’m all over that…). I mean, would Jesus fight with any old sword? I don’t think so.