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The True Jesus: Dispelling the Liberal Myths and Misperceptions - Part One

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This is Part 1 of a three-part series on the myths and misconceptions of the nature and teachings of Jesus Christ.

What would Jesus do?

This phrase, originally attributed to a 19th-century novel by Charles Sheldon, resurged in popularity in the 1990s when a youth leader in Holland, Michigan, put the acronym “WWJD” on bracelets for her class.

What started as a classroom aid evolved into a grassroots movement, and before you knew it every Christian in the country seemed to be carrying that reminder with them on their wrist: “What would Jesus do?”

At face value, the question seems helpful. We should seek to imitate Christ, should we not? When faced with everything from a serious moral dilemma to getting cut in line at the grocery store, bearing the knowledge that we are redeemed image-bearers of the Most High should surely focus our thoughts and actions on being nice.

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Because, after all, to be Christ-like is to be — above all else — nice, right? Jesus was the nicest man there ever was. He ministered from town to town, baby lamb slung around his shoulders, answering scorn, mockery and sin with disarming laughter and high-fives.

Well, not quite. That may be the Jesus of progressive and pop Christianity, but it certainly isn’t the true Jesus.

In order to imitate Christ, we must first have the proper image of Christ. “Imitate” and “image” both come from the same Latin word, after all. So what did Jesus look like, and what did He sound like, that we may follow?

Jesus Wasn’t a Hippie

It’s easy to imagine the Jesus of Scripture as an itinerant hippie who couch-surfed the towns of ancient Israel, preaching peace and love. Perhaps this stereotype in Protestant evangelicalism comes from the influence of the Jesus movement in the 1960s and the unfortunate misperceptions that were bound to follow.

Jesus’ father Joseph was a stonemason. No, not a carpenter.

In Matthew 13:55 when Joseph is identified by his trade, the Greek word used is tektōn, which translates to “craftsman” or “builder.” The Latin Vulgate (used for thousands of years as the only translation of the Greek text) accurately translates tektōn to fabri, which means about the same.

In the 14th century, when John Wycliffe produced the first full English translation of the Vulgate, he translated fabri to “carpenter.” In medieval England, homes were built with a timber frame and patched with a variety of materials. So to Wycliffe, naturally a builder would be a carpenter.

In first-century Israel, however, homes were built of stone, not wood. As Jesus likely would have followed Joseph in his trade, he would have been hewing large stones, shaping them to fit together in walls, and lifting them into place.

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The True Jesus: Dispelling the Liberal Myths and Misperceptions - Part Two

This forces us to reimagine Christ as a muscular, sturdy construction worker with rough, calloused hands — not some kind of artisan designing fine furniture and carving plates and bowls.

He would have smelled pretty bad most days. He probably could win a fistfight. Nowadays he would have worn Carhartt before it was a hipster thing to do.

This is why Jesus’ audience in Matthew 13:55 is so shocked at His teaching. He’s the guy they’ve seen on the side of the road in an orange vest laying asphalt. Now, all of a sudden, he’s preaching and prophesying.

It wouldn’t have come as such a surprise had Jesus been known as the reflective Simon and Garfunkel type who would recite poetry while he carved a rocking chair.

What Did Jesus Sound Like?

Regardless of how you want to imagine Jesus’ appearance, His tone is where your theology will pass or fail.

As I opened with, common knowledge is that Jesus was a really nice person. Like, the nicest dude. But was he?

When we read Scripture, the one thing unfortunately missing is an audible narrator. This means we are obligated to discern the tone for ourselves.

If we read the words of Christ through our postmodern lens of hippie Jesus spreading peace and love, it is naturally going to influence His tone. We can’t imagine a full-blown hippie in 1965 cursing someone out in his rusted-out Volkswagen, so it’s impossible for us to imagine Jesus doing the same.

Now, I’m not suggesting that Jesus engaged in the Iron Age equivalent of road rage or dropped Aramaic F-bombs on total strangers, but I do want to firmly shake off this lens of “niceness” and review His words in their proper textual and historical context.

The first thing the hippie crowd (as I’ll call them) struggles to reconcile is Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple. It’s one of the few scenes recounted in all four Gospels, and for a significant reason.

Jesus fashioned a whip and chased away the money changers, screaming at them. This wasn’t some Indiana Jones type of whip that he cracked to scare them off. Scripture says it was a scourge — similar to the one Jesus would be whipped with before His crucifixion.

Christ saw His church being used for immoral purposes, so he attacked the perpetrators with a weapon He made Himself and forced them out with violence and anger. That doesn’t sound like good vibrations, man.

It doesn’t end there.

When speaking to the Pharisees on multiple occasions, Jesus yelled at them, calling them fools. But “fool” is far too proper and scholastic a translation. The word He used is where we get our modern term “moron.” A more apt translation could read, “You stupid morons!”

He called them vipers, hypocrites and dogs — a very offensive slur in that culture and language. He said they were whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones. Imagine Christ walking up to a Pharisee with a scowl and screaming at him, “You’re a nice-looking coffin! The only thing inside your soul is dead, rotten bones.”

Burn Your Idol

So then, let us imitate Christ.

If someone claims to have experienced even a fraction of the glory that Christ came to give, then he has a single permissible reaction to the evil we see in the world: anger.

I don’t mean evil like Osama bin Laden evil or Adolf Hitler evil. I mean evil like the Methodist church on the corner flying an LGBT flag and preaching a false gospel. I mean evil like the Mormon cultist at your door claiming he follows the same Christ and tempting you into his demonic brotherhood.

I mean the same evil Christ saw when he walked into church and saw the grounds being used to celebrate and enable the sin He came to die for.

I’m not saying we should carry ourselves as angry individuals and go looking for fights. What I am saying is that the God you worship has a full range of emotions — anger being one of them.

As Christians, there are so many things we think we should extend charity toward that Christ would have greeted with a whip. It is about time we start reframing our perception of evil through a Christ-like lens and responding accordingly.

God is holy before He is nice. God is holy before He is love. God is holy, holy, holy, and will not accept anything less in us. “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

Forget the liberal marketing ploy. Niceness is not a Christian virtue, so burn your idol of being liked to the ground and accept that to be like Christ means sometimes sounding a little harsh, and that not everyone is going to like what you’re saying or how you’re saying it.

 

WWJD

In closing, let’s briefly examine the 19th-century author behind the phrase, “What would Jesus do?”

Charles Sheldon, a contemporary of that pernicious adulterator of the gospel Walter Rauschenbusch, was a prolific proponent of the “social gospel.” If you’re not familiar, this is the woke agenda that seeks to appropriate the message of Christianity and turn it toward “social justice.”

Also known as Christian socialism, this product of the secularist so-called Great Enlightenment bastardized the gospel into a progressive force for the leftist agenda. It is the historical root of the theological tumor in our time that sees Christians participating in Black Lives Matter marches and fighting for abortion “rights.”

It should come as no surprise that the author of such a disingenuous phrase as “WWJD” would himself be an evil false teacher, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, an anti-Christ.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with asking what Jesus would do, so long as it’s asked with a genuine intention to seek after and imitate the real Jesus of the Bible, no matter how unpopular it might make us.

Check back next week for Part 2 in this three-part series on the common myths and misconceptions of the nature and teachings of Jesus Christ.

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John Welnick works full-time helping lead a large Christian nonprofit in the greater Phoenix area. He provides cultural commentary through a theological lens on his social media platform, which can can be found on Instagram under the handle @Charismatic_Calvinist.
John Welnick works full-time helping lead a large Christian nonprofit in the greater Phoenix area. He provides cultural commentary through a theological lens on his social media platform, which can can be found on Instagram under the handle @Charismatic_Calvinist.




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