I like Christmas food: spiral-cut ham, garlic mashed potatoes, reindeer brownies, chocolate Charlie, all that stuff. I also like Christmas food for thought, anything that helps me understand the real meaning of Christmas more deeply. And one of the more neglected truths about the Jesus we celebrate this time of year is that He is the image of God we are all patterned after. Colossians 1:15 says, “The Son is the image of the invisible God” (NIV).
Father God has a spitting image: Jesus. In Jesus’s character you can see the Father’s love, trustworthiness, wisdom, righteousness, holiness, joy, patience, and other virtues. Jesus was exactly the sort of human all of us were meant to be, the paradigm, the pattern we were created according to. And at first Adam and Eve were more like that too. But then they rebelled against our Father and all of us joined them by deciding to sin (Romans 3:23).
That’s a big reason God sent Jesus: to get us all back on track to becoming like Him in our character (not our personalities, which are a totally different thing). So He sent the pattern, Jesus, to not only die for us, but for us to imitate. Colossians 3:9-10 urges us, “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Once created in God’s image, we must now be recreated in His image because of our tendency to unmake ourselves (2 Corinthians 5:17).
We are supposed to become like Him, but so often we try to ‘make’ Him out to be like us and we end up with all kinds of versions of Jesus:
- Name it, claim it Jesus.
- Socialist revolutionary Jesus.
- New Age Jesus.
- LGBTQ rights Jesus.
- Racist Jesus.
- Solely soul-saving Jesus.
- Do not judge, anything goes Jesus.
Each version of Jesus is appealing to people in the subculture that created it. That Jesus is used to justify such differing agendas 2,000 years after He walked the earth shows just how consequential He remains. I would say ‘influential’ except that the whole point I am making is that we resist His influence at precisely the point at which our sacred cows conflict with Jesus’s teaching and example. The materialist has no place for “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Luke 18:22). “Don’t judge me” folks have no place for “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:28–29, the same sermon in which Jesus told us not to be judgmental). LGBTQ activists have no place for Jesus’s words, “Haven’t you read . . . that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ (quoting Genesis 1:27) and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? (quoting Genesis 2:24) So they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Matthew 19:4-6). This last example shows that Jesus grounded His concept of marital union on God’s creation of people in two sexes/genders, male and female, and which gender marries which mattered for God’s purposes in Genesis 1:26 and 28: be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it, etc.
Jesus is who He is, regardless of our preferences and feelings. We must take Him as He is. Can we accept and even celebrate a Christ we cannot control? When I say things like this I am always concerned that people who become convinced that Jesus really does not support their particular causes might end up rejecting Jesus entirely rather than only partially, as they had until that point. But it is a risk we must take because of the harm we cause when we try to bend Jesus to our will so He will call good what is actually evil and evil what is actually good.
Being a disciple of Jesus requires us to let go of our selfish desires, idols, and ungodly agendas. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). This Christmas, let’s celebrate a Christ we did not craft.