One of the “concerns” people often have after they hear me share goes something like this: “It seems that your focus on befriending Muslims and others clearly outside the faith, waters down the gospel. The real gospel. The hard gospel. I mean, Jesus wasn’t just “Mr. Nice Guy” like you seem to suggest.” It’s a great question actually. Here are a couple things I’ve noticed about Jesus in recent years – both his life on earth 2000 years ago, and his life now through the Spirit.
- If you think Jesus is into small things – like “one on one mentoring” – then if you let him, he’ll show you how he’s into big things – like the crowds. (And vice versa).
- If you think Jesus was “nice” to people, he’ll then show you how he’s hard to follow and downright “hard” on people. (And vice versa).
- If you think Jesus was God – he’ll show you his humanity. (And vice versa).
Whatever your “take” on Jesus is, he’ll surprise you. If he’s not surprising you, and he fits nicely in the box you have for him (whatever that box is), then you might be following the Jesus in your head, but not the real one.
Now…back to the question. And…here’s my answer: Jesus was in fact hard on certain people. Actually very hard. But almost exclusively they were the insiders. The religious leaders. Sometimes the disciples. The closer they were to the available truth without getting it, the harder he was on them. But to the outsiders, he was gentle and compassionate. And the further “out” they were, the “nicer” Jesus seemed to be. Lepers, Samaritans, women, prostitutes – all treated well by Jesus. Therefore, it’s my conclusion that today Jesus would be “hard” on me and you. He would be hard on those that bear his name without acting like him (like me). And he’d be gracious and merciful to the ones we think are furthest from the Kingdom. Like Muslims. So encouraging “dialog” and “understanding” with Muslims in order to bring them closer to the Kingdom is a good thing. If the ultimate goal is to assist them in meeting the real Jesus in a real way, then these efforts are good. If it’s simply to build a bridge and then stand on the bridge in admiration of our work, then it’s flawed.
May we all get to the other side – where Jesus is standing and waiting with open arms inviting us to dinner.