To try to convince someone about something that they already support;
to state one’s opinion to those who are already most receptive to it.
I don’t know where or when the idea actually originated, but I do remember the 90s when Christians began wearing bracelets and t-shirts with the acronym for “What would Jesus do?” Like other things, that which seemed to have begun from sincere motives turned into nothing more than fodder for the skeptic and antagonist. Part of the problem was that its popularity grew faster than its purpose. It is difficult to act in a way that personifies Jesus’ teachings if you don’t actually know what His teaching was about.
But with that said, I am thankful for the question if it points people to seek the Christ of scripture!
When faced with a decision or response, it is a good thing to consider what Jesus might do. Of course, the better thing is to know what He actually did and taught. Based on what is recorded in the gospels (side note: “There are many other things that Jesus did. If every one of them were written down, I suppose the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. “ John 21:25), Jesus most emphasized the Kingdom of God and how to be part of it.
Though He often talked about money, He wasn’t necessarily teaching about money. (“A woman lost a coin.”)
Though He brought good news, He talked more about Hell than Heaven.
Though He talked about the blessings of faith, He talked more about the consequences of unbelief.
Though He regularly went into the temple to teach, He often addressed and referenced his fellow religious leaders and teachers with holy frustration.
So, who is Jesus and how would He use His influence to impact society today?
It leads me to think about my own sphere of influence and impact. Why don’t most of us spend time ‘parenting’ the kids of our friends? (Besides the fact they don’t invite us to.) It’s likely because we know our kids best and desire to influence them most. We are more most responsible for and concerned about parenting our own people.
When I read negative comments directed toward conservative Christian influencers who spend the majority of their time condemning “their own,” I wonder if the dissenter has considered why. Though I can’t determine motives, I think that many influencers see themselves as having more insight and impact with their own people. When you read the gospels, you’ll notice that Jesus spoke most harshly about his fellow religious leaders in the day. He spoke about their greed, their idolatry, their unbelief, their hatred, their anger, their arrogance and their hypocrisy. He knew them well. He knew what they prioritized. He also knew their hearts and the motives of those who followed them. It’s interesting to me that Jesus most often spoke about the Kingdom of God, but pushed against the religious’ leaders ideas of what that was!
Many, if not most, of the Pharisees tended to live in echo chambers. They didn’t challenge each other to think differently. There was dysfunction in their unity that led to unified disbelief and disobedience. When Jesus confronted them, they were so committed to their way of thinking that they were ultimately willing to join together with the enemy to see Him silenced. How tragic to be so arrogant that we resist becoming humble enough to consider the constructive criticism we hear within our own circles. It is likely we’d experience more positive change and growth in ourselves if we’d heed the warning from those who know us best and care deeply about our influence.
Knowing I will receive the most pushback from my own people, I’ll do it anyway because I know “us” best. I will do it to push against my own temptations & tendencies. As we adapt to the environment within our circles, we must personally navigate the trouble spots when we recognize them. As we develop our views within these groups, there may be times we need to address the issues we uncover. It’s important, even though it’s not easy, to take a stand even when it will raise an eyebrow or two among our peers.
Jesus knew their praise was temporary. The challenge was clear. The people of Jesus’ hometown would demand signs and wonders before they would accept Him as Messiah. And He would confront them time and again, using their hypocrisy against them.
When Jesus said, “unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” the people were stunned. The Pharisees were their spiritual leaders, the most righteous. Was Jesus’ warning a call to those of us who may forget to listen to our own people with discernment? Maybe so. It’s easy to be the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable in Luke 18. We go into the temple to pray. We take with us all our people. We enter as a group with pride and arrogance. We look over at “them” and smugly rejoice because we are so much better. We are unwilling to look at ourselves and see the wrong.
But we must.
Our influence depends on it.