This morning I read an article entitled Christianity’s Image Problem which prompted some thoughts.
Because we live out the Christian life imperfectly, we give non-believers plenty of opportunities to criticize our hypocrisy. Matt Appling, the author of the article, brings this out in his post. Christianity has an image problem because of Christians. This is true, but I would add that even if we were to live out the Christian life perfectly, we’d still have an image problem. We would have this problem because Jesus, the focus of Christianity, had an image problem.
Jesus has an image problem because He claimed to be God and he confronted self-reliance and willful sin wherever he found it.
Did you ever notice that the only ones in the gospels who seem to be comfortable around Jesus are the hookers, tax thugs, destitute, sick and homeless? The ones that loved to be around Jesus were the ones that came from a starting point of brokenness and need. All the needy people loved and followed Jesus because he met them in their need. All the respectable, clean living, self-sufficient, moral people seem to have had an aversion to him.
Jesus’ PR problem is primarily because he is Holy God confronting a sinful world. If you are unwilling to admit that you have a sin problem then you will not like being around Jesus. If you are unwilling to admit that God has the right to delineate moral from immoral behavior, then you will not like being around Jesus. If you are unwilling to acknowledge the existence of God or the propriety of worshipping God, then you will not like being around Jesus.
Jesus has a PR problem because his nature does not line up with our desire for a genie-in-a-bottle God. We want a God who gives us what we want, when we want it and does not make any moral demands in return. Jesus is not, nor ever will be this type of God.
Jesus polarizes humanity. He demands an all-in response. Those that are unwilling to go all-in fall into two camps. The first are those who are confused by him and brush off religion as a waste of time. The second camp contains those who are angry that Jesus would demand such a choice. Apathy or anger are the two choices, neither group will score Jesus highly in the polls.
This is the core of Christianity’s image problem. We are seeking to emulate one who would not change who he is and what he came to do in order to be more popular.