WWJD? became a
irritating wildly popular slogan that garnered untold millions in T-shirt and bracelet sales to teens. Supposedly, the idea was to remind someone to think about how they should act — like Jesus — in any given situation. As far as I can tell, its real success was only a grand slam for marketing.
Don’t get me wrong. If a kid’s going to be a walking billboard, then a Christian slogan is my first choice. However, I do have a real problem with bumper-sticker or T-shirt theology.
In this week’s reading of Kosher Jesus, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach not only puts forth his admiration for the courage of Jesus but also challenges Christians to look closely at what Jesus is actually saying.
What would Jesus really do?
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…” Luke 6:27-28
People that hate, curse, and mistreat are not the same as people that rape you in the street, throw acid in your face, or fly airplanes into your office building. Boteach points out that Jesus is not talking about everyone. Too often, this verse is used to portray Jesus as someone who just loves everyone. That he’s not willing to fight. That’s not the author’s impression of a man reaching for the mantle of a messiah.
But Jesus does not tell us to love God’s enemies. It is one thing to love an irritating colleague, a very different thing to love their murderous Ahmadinejad or Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the abominable head of Hezbollah. For Jesus to argue in favor of loving such a man, or any enemy of his people, would be immoral. He neither says nor means anything of the sort.
The author explains:
In Matthew “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword…” Jesus was calling his men to arms. An armed insurrection against Rome was his battle cry, even if such armed struggle tore families and communities asunder. Evil has to be resisted.
While we can debate whether or not Jesus came purely for the redemption of souls, or if his disciples thought he came to free them only from Roman rule, in both events he had to hate and fight against evil.
Evil is an enemy that must be confronted and fought. Jesus never asked us to turn the other cheek when faced with the likes of evil. Wickedness, and wicked men, we are told to stay far from. They will see destruction. Wickedness produces evil. Jews and Christians alike are called to protect innocence against injustice and the wicked.
Boteach’s description of a messiah is someone that will rescue another from oppression and end war by fighting for peace.
Living as a messiah means you’ve been called upon. Jesus certainly heard that call, and all of us should live by his example– confronting the world as though God has chosen us as His champion, to redeem mankind from evil. If we all lived in this spirit, it would be a far better world.
This is a Jewish messiah. As a Christian, I see Jesus as the messiah and savior. I can’t emulate Christ by feeding the multitudes with a few loaves of bread. Nor can I make the blind see. I can’t follow him with my own death on a cross.
So how can I follow him? Love God, love people — resist and fight real evil. In this, both Christians and Jews alike can follow Jesus.
What do you think Jesus would do in Syria or Jerusalem today?
Photo credit Shutterstock, jerryjoz
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