How we see Jesus


Much of the wide diversity in church life comes from the ways we see Jesus. There are different lenses through which we view the central figure of our faith.

In his new novel, South of Broad, Pat Conroy has his fictionalized characters driving into the mountains of western North Carolina. The great phrase-turner tells of passing little white churches where “they worship a fiercer Christ than I do.”

Through years of study, ministry and simple observation, I’ve seen the portrait of Christ painted in many shades and textures.

Some look to the philosopher Jesus. He is compelling, rational, insightful and convincing. He may be strong in debate or a meek storyteller with a lamb in hand.

Some see Jesus the Judge, primarily. An emphasis on Jesus as judge often leads those who embrace such an image to enjoy the role themselves. He is taking names; kicking behinds. This is the sheriff who patrols our lives looking for each and every infraction.

The street Jesus moves among the neediest. He cleans up the messes of life. Compassion is his defining mark.

Pieces of these images and others are found throughout the Gospels.

My earliest mental images of Jesus were shaped by the physical renderings on my grandmother’s walls as well as the ones that moved across flannelgraph boards in the children’s department at church.

Over the years the portraits have changed for me — depending on what scripture I was reading or what experiences were happened in my own life. None of us has him pegged just right.

But we do know that Jesus was offensive enough to be targeted for elimination. And loving enough to endure it.

4 Comments

  1. John,

    You said,

    "Pieces of these images and others are found throughout the Gospels."

    And,

    "Over the years the portraits have changed for me — depending on what scripture I was reading or what experiences were happened in my own life. None of us has him pegged just right."

    Perhaps none of us have Jesus' pegged in His fullness. But the difference between the authentic Christian Baptists and the politico Baptists on the left or right, is that the true Baptists believe that the gospels, as well as the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles, did have Jesus pegged just right, and therefore we are not at liberty to ignore, erase or in any way diminish some facet of Jesus' image which does not conform to our political conception of Him. Rather, we consider it our responsibility to accept Jesus in His fullness as He is set forth in the Scriptures and to strive to better understand and conform ourselves to Him.

    The politico Baptists, left and right, are both guilty of using the name of Jesus to justify their political ends. The only difference between them is that the Baptist left is frank in its rejection of certain aspects of the Lord's character while the Baptist right has deceived itself into thinking that its agenda actually conforms to that of the Jesus of the Scriptures.

    Mark Osgatharp
    Wynne, Arkansas

  2. It wouldn't hurt Osgatharp to read Jaroslav Pelikan's Great Work Jesus Through the Centuries.

    Here is a short list of folks who I think understood Jesus in some part of of my life so far on this earth.

    My Mother, Louise Jordan Fox
    Martin Luther King, Jr.
    Frank Johnson
    Frank Harrington
    Stewart Newman
    Oscar Romero
    Flannery OConnor
    Celestine Sibley
    Miroslav Volf
    Fleming Rutledge

  3. Mark,

    You said "…accept Jesus in His fullness as He is set forth in the Scriptures…"

    Are you submitting that Jesus has been fully revealed through scriptures? In other words, do the scriptures tell us absolutely everything that there is to know?

  4. JPLand,

    You asked,

    "In other words, do the scriptures tell us absolutely everything that there is to know?"

    I'll leave the answer to that question to the philosophers. What I affirm is that, however Jesus is revealed in the Scriptures is 100% accurate and ought to be fully accepted.

    I am saying we are not at liberty to tamper with the Biblical Jesus and that when we accept Him as He is revealed in the Scriptures we have accepted Him as God intends for us to know Him.

    I am saying that any time we attempt to politicize Jesus we end up dispensing with some integral aspect of His character and fabricating a bogus Jesus. All who do so are, in the words of Paul,

    "….false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ."

    Mark Osgatharp
    Wynne, Arkansas

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