White Jesus stares down at me.
Of course, I’ve seen him dozens of times. Usually he’s up on a wall in a hall or living room, or represented on a painting in a second hand store. And he’s almost always holding a lamb. We’ve all seen White Jesus around from time to time – but the representation of Jesus as a good looking, blue eyed guy troubles me deeply.
White Jesus seems to sum up so much of how we try to squeeze Jesus into a mold that fits him neatly in our minds. So many times in my life I’ve seen Jesus represented as something that just doesn’t seem to fit with the Biblical narrative of Christ. Of course, if White Jesus was real, I’d imagine he’d be pretty similar to many people I know: a white, middle class male with a preference for rock music, decent but unimpressive sporting abilities, holding down a respectable job in the suburbs. White Jesus would be religious, but not preachy – he’d do his part when he had to, but overall his main focus would be maintaining the existing order, not rocking the boat or causing too many issues.
But alas, White Jesus isn’t real. He’s the epitome of what we want Jesus to be. It’s like we’d be happy if Jesus was embodied in Ned Flanders. But the kicker is that God doesn’t call us to make Jesus become like us, he challenges us to become like Jesus – and that can be problematic, because Jesus doesn’t fit our neat boxes.
In the Bible, whenever people felt they had Jesus figured out, he’d do something that didn’t fit into their little box. People wanted Jesus to be a social revolutionary – but his social revolution beyond politics, and to the very nature of human relations. People wanted to view Jesus as a social worker – but he restored not only restored the outcast to society – he healed their bodies as well. And when Jesus was put in a position to condemn a clearly guilty woman, he refused outright, showing grace instead.
When we step away from White Jesus and let the Bible speak for itself, we find the God of the universe, reaching out to us in the person of Jesus, calling us away from the easy path and onto the path of obedience – laying down our lives to find life in all its fullness, as Jesus showed us during his time on earth.
Jesus refuses to fit our stereotypes or be put in a box. He wasn’t simply a social activist, or a great philosopher. He was more than the sum of all these things, greater than each of these parts. He wasn’t just the example of how we should live our life either. He was, and still is, Lord, saviour and King. He not only commands our attention, but captures our imagination as the example of what it means to be fully human – empowered by the Holy Spirit, motivated by love and moved by compassion.
Jesus not only challenges our core beliefs and assumptions – He calls us to worship him with all we have. If you’ve been wondering who Jesus is for a while, I’d encourage you to check out what the Bible has to say about him – White Jesus will never compare to the man himself.