'He Gets Us' but Do We Get Him?

(AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

The “He Gets Us” ad campaign aired two spots during the Super Bowl. While the effort is just now making a splash because of the ad placement last night, the campaign has actually been around for a while. They have been met by some skeptics in the Christian church who have said that the commercials water down the message and person of Christ. On the left side of the aisle, the criticism is largely that the campaign is being funded by a coalition of Christian groups, including the co-founder of Hobby Lobby. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “Something tells me Jesus would *not* spend millions of dollars on Super Bowl ads to make fascism look benign.” CNN reports that the group behind the campaign, The Servant Foundation, has in the past donated millions to the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has fought for conservative causes. So to some, the ads are “Christianity Lite.” To others, they are Trojan Horses masking a conservative agenda.

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You can see the ads in question here and here. Among other topics, the campaign also tackles the subjects of immigration and refugees.

As well-intentioned as the ads may be, they are an effort to get the proverbial butts in the pews by making Jesus nothing more than a good buddy or favorite uncle. They are what is known as seeker-sensitive and allow people to ignore the thorny issues that must, at some point, plague every person of faith. And without answers, abandoning belief can become very appetizing. Better to key in on the “feelings.” In fact, the Be Childlike ad ends with the caption, “Jesus didn’t want us to act like adults.” That’s a neat bit of cherry-picking right there. It is a reference to Matthew 18:2-4:

Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them,  and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

So Jesus calls on people to humble themselves as a child might. But he also had strong words regarding sin and personal behavior in Matthew 5. And then there is Luke 9:23-24:

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.

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Hardly instructions for a child. I used to know a Christian woman who suffered persecution under the Chinese government. She gained a great deal of wisdom through her struggles, but perhaps the most salient thing I ever heard her say was, “Everyone wants Jesus, but no one wants the cross.” Truer words were never spoken, particularly with regard to the American Church. We tend to want to make Jesus palatable. We want him to be what we want him to be, not who he is. And this problem dates back to the start.

In the many years prior to Jesus’ birth, Israel had been wracked with invasions, insurrection, and political intrigue. And at the time of Jesus’s birth, Israel was under Roman occupation. Doubtless, many of Jesus’ followers, including those who greeted him on Palm Sunday, were expecting him to lead the revolt against the Romans and reclaim Israel. And they were among those who shouted, “Crucify him!” when the insurrection did not materialize. We see this again in John 6 following the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus says to the crowd, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him, God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” 

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Related: ‘Woke Jesus’ Is Not Jesus at All

And so it is today. We want the Jesus we want and declare that he is a Republican, a socialist, a closet Buddhist, a fundamentalist, or a “great teacher.” Because, like it or not, we prefer that Jesus follow us instead of us following him. We focus only on that which we personally find appealing, while mistakenly throwing out the rest. But Jesus will have none of that. As C.S. Lewis said:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [that is, Christ]: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse…. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Yes, Jesus called on us to be compassionate and charitable, but he also called on us to be more. Compassion and charity are components of a larger call, and a difficult one. It is the call of the cross. Which, as stated above, no one wants. We’re fine with telling other people what to do. It’s the introspection that we would rather avoid.

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