What Would the Third Most Important Person in History Do?

Most lists include Jesus as the third most important person in human history. Third! Have they never watched “Talhedega Nights”? And no, the two finishing in front of Jesus are not the other Persons in the Trinity.

But seriously, Muhammad and Isaac Newton nose Jesus out at the finish line in these lists mainly because Jesus shares credit for the founding of Christianity with the Apostle Paul (#6) and because Jesus did not start a political movement.

WWJD in Politics?

Agree or disagree with Jesus’ third place finish, it is true Jesus was not very political. Why then are so many people today trying to enlist Jesus in their political causes? Why not ask What Would Muhammad Do? Or What Would Isaac Do?

Instead everyone from PETA to President Obama is asking WWJD? as a way to add biblical street cred to their ideas. The animal rights organization PETA prints the words “What would Jesus do?” over pictures of animals being killed. At the end of the video they answer for a silent Jesus and conclude, “Go vegetarian.” Trouble is he didn’t go vegetarian.

And though I could find no citable examples of the Religious Right using the WWJD phrase, religious conservatives have long implied Jesus may be on their side politically. They may have been the first to have drafted him to their team.

But the Religious Left has since piled on. Sojourners, speaking for the Religious Left, wonders, “Would Jesus Occupy Wall Street?” After exegeting many of Jesus’ actions as not only religious but rather political, and claiming Jesus was an angry activist, author Aaron D. Taylor answers his own question with, “I don’t see how a person [Jesus] can be an angry activist and a friend of aristocrats at the same time.” Problem is Jesus did have several aristocratic friends: Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea to name two.

Rabbi Eliyahu Fink calls this “transparent political pandering.” I think it’s worse than pandering. It shows either a towering ignorance of Jesus or a dangerous dishonesty. Or both. I have a friend who believes that because Jesus pulled a coin from the mouth of a fish and told Peter to use it to pay his taxes, Jesus is for taxes and, in this case, for raising them on the “rich.”

WWJD in Weird Ways

Victoria Emily Jones says, “The phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” has become a snowclone, a phrasal template that’s customizable to suit any purpose.  A lot of its present-day derivatives have nothing to do with Jesus, but instead substitute his name with somebody else’s.”

Jones is on to something. Many, however, are not merely using the WWJD? phrase as a snowclone, but rather are using Jesus himself that way, substituting Jesus for themselves in their political beliefs.

It’s the faulty “name it and claim it” theology (Jesus said for you to give me your money) being applied to politics (Jesus said you should join my political cause).

Neither false belief have much more to do with Jesus except using his name as a snowclone.

Jesus as a Reflection of Me

What this amounts to is not an attempt to honestly follow Jesus and to live life as the third most important person in history did. But rather it is striving to show Jesus would have followed us. In this way, we treat Jesus as a mirror’s reflection of ourselves mimicking our every move.

This is troubling first because it is so narcissistic. Second because it gives me permission to stay stuck in my misperceptions and misbehaviors that are destructive to myself and others.

Follow Jesus

What would Jesus do? My reading of his four biographies shows Jesus would challenge nearly every foundational belief in my life, either for me to deepen them beyond my shallow perception, or to throw them out because they are self-serving lies. Knowing which is tricky. Yet Jesus has often asked the latter of me.

Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me” not “Make up your slogan and recruit me.”

I know some of you reading this may not believe Jesus was the Son of God. That’s a subject for another conversation. You may simply think Jesus was merely the third (or second or tenth) most important person in history. What is undeniable is that, without starting a political party, enlisting a military, or founding a government, Jesus has impacted billions of lives.

Whether you believe Jesus was God Incarnate or not, my living spiritually challenge for next week (Holy Week) is this:

Read one of Jesus‘ biographies (Mark and Luke are very straightforward) and choose several humanly accomplishable things Jesus did. Then each new day of the week attempt to do that very thing.

For example:

Monday I will forgive something big the way Jesus did; Tuesday I will spend time with some children; Wednesday I will look at someone I disapprove of or am afraid of with non-judgmental eyes, Thursday I will not defend myself if accused or attacked; Friday I will give grace and mercy to someone who may not deserve it; then Sunday I will replace my fear of the future with faith.

I do not want this to be an exercise in perfectionism, nor in futility and frustration. More than likely it will take more than one day to accomplish any of the above. And if I know myself, I will fail at one or more of the above. What I do desire is to know and experience the attempt. What do I feel when I succeed or fail? What have I learned about myself? What have I learned about Jesus?

What would the third most important person in history do? Unfortunately not a lot that I fill my daily life with. Maybe this week I’ll find out. Join me please.

Eugene C. Scott doesn’t wear bracelets or outfits. Jesus didn’t either. He also loves to read and write stories. Eugene is currently writing another blog called The Year of Living Spiritually. You can join the Living Spiritually community by following that blog and clicking here and liking the page. He is also co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “What Would the Third Most Important Person in History Do?

  1. Great post, Eugene! How often do we create Jesus in our own image? Perhaps that was the heart of second commandment: “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.”

    In this today’s reading in My Utmost For His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes, “Many of us are loyal to our notions of Jesus Christ, but how many of us are loyal to Him?” We worship our notions of Jesus because we want him to agree with us. If we’re honest, we want to control him. But the inverse is true: Jesus wants to control us.

    Thanks for your thought-provoking insights, Eugene.

  2. Georgie-ann

    First,…I hope the wildfires out there are being contained & that some big rains will come your way,…& I hope you’re all ok,…

    Second,…this is a “Really Big” topic, and perhaps exactly where “the rubber meets the road” on a lot of issues that revolve around the myriad personal interpretations, assertions, and questions and practices relating to spirituality/religion/faith that we find in the earth,…

    I’m going to post this much just to get the “wildfire” prayers and thoughts out to you, and will continue below,…plus we’re getting big thunder right now & our power or service might be interrupted here,…

    God Bless,…& Best wishes,…

    • The fires are still burning, Georgie-ann. They are in the foothills a few miles west of us, though I don’t think we are in any danger. Keep praying. This topic has been stirring in me for some time and the political season has given it more salt. But I really want to spend each day of Holy Week with a practical challenge to be more like Jesus.

      • Georgie-ann

        Eugene, I like your challenge,… our Catholic Holy Week is “so intense” that I just want to survive it, and do the best job possible! I hope to experience some moments “of Him” in this, walking through it again with us,… it has happened before & the moments of closeness are my favorites,…

  3. Georgie-ann

    continuing,…

    I agree with Michael also, and have even been confronting the problem of people (my own friends) who seem to have “more faith in (and love of) their (own) faith, possibly, rather than God, Himself,” — which I had never quite seen in that light before, and in just that way. This “little trick” of the psyche looks and sounds a lot like “exercising one’s faith” — (and of course, “Without faith, it IS impossible to please God” ~~ Hebrews 11:6) — but really it’s more like an addiction to (and love of) one’s own convincing (self-focused & self-originated) “soul power,” with one’s own plans and desires and even sentimentalities as the centerpiece of the motivation, rather than deeply desiring spiritual knowledge of God, for and as Himself, or seeking His Presence, or even for whatever God’s plans and leadings might be,…as opposed to my own.

    Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those WHO DILIGENTLY SEEK HIM.”

    Some tell-tale signs of something possibly being amiss seem to be: (1) the continual focus on “a grandiose faith-filled self” persona, doing and receiving what it wants (with a very “generous sounding” hat-tip to God at appropriate intervals, … and sometimes with supporting Biblical quotations), and (2) a stronger and stronger tendency to become repetitive, demanding and self-serving, … revealing (3) an inner stubbornness and lack of patience and peace within, which (4) begins to be irritating even to others as they also begin to notice that (5) this person seems to be digging in some pretty deep ruts of non-healed frustration, while really just psychologically “spinning their wheels” in many self-serving ways, … and then one wonders why they hadn’t really noticed all along that “God Himself” seemed to have been becoming less and less the issue, while this person grew more and more into some kind of repetitive nightmare in self-assertion,…albeit “in God’s name” and “faith in Him,”…

    Ah,… possibly more “ripening” poorly-formed fruits of “the Faith Movement?” God was good enough to save and bless me and forgive my sins, but now that I think I’m getting the hang of this thing, I’ll take over from here? … or, maybe, … I’ll try to hide myself in here alongside all these other “faith people” and kind of clone myself to them, — (we’ll be “joining our faith” together), — but never really trying to get any closer or more intimate myself with God Himself,… (are we sometimes trying to create an easier, passive, substitute-style “faith walk,”… or a default setting “Fool’s Paradise” in our own image?,… and how can we know/tell the difference?)

    Personally, I think these are some of the very hardest issues and questions to know or find answers for. We know and believe God to be merciful and compassionate, but we also know that He knows and sees everything exactly for what it really is,… (especially the “inside hidden motivation stuff,”…)

    Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

    A parable that illustrates:

    Matthew 22:11-13
    11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. 12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ”

    also,

    Matthew 7:15-23 [You Will Know Them by Their Fruits]
    15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

    and, [I Never Knew You]
    21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ ”

    To say the least, these can all be very sobering thoughts for anyone,… my own hope is in God’s generous mercy and understanding, and I believe that He he is very patient with us in our (human) weaknesses and short-comings,… Serving God, or even knowing God, does not rest on our own “perfectionism,” because we will never be perfect,… Only God is perfect!,… But, we should love Him for this, AND that He will judge and save and sort and separate all things as is appropriate according to His all-knowing, SPIRITUAL and perfect wisdom,… Inwardly, we should rejoice at this consummate Beauty and Perfection aspect of our God and Father. We should Love and Trust Him in all things, rejoicing in great Thanksgiving for all the Mercy and Forgiveness He has shown us. Anything that must be judged, will also be for our own good as well.

    1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”

    Admittedly, we Christians are not all “on the same page, religiously speaking” or on the same levels of “spiritual growth and development,” but boasting is not an option:

    John 13:12-17
    12 “When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

    and,
    Ephesians 2:8-10
    8 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

    9 “Not of works, lest any man should boast.

    10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

    Extending positive, hopeful, and generous attitude blessings of soul and spirit, is what Christians do normally,… but when we find ourselves walking in “human mine-fields” with “in-our-face public challenges” to our core beliefs, there comes a point where “the tables are sufficiently turned” that it does seem right to seriously contemplate: “What WOULD Jesus do?” However, given the parameters of the strong demonstration of turning over the tables of the money changers in the temple, and silently going to an undeserved crucifixion, we still do not have “easy (microwaveable) answers.”

    We DO know that He ALWAYS prayed to and obeyed His Father,… and, He ALWAYS spoke the Truth. And His acts were acts of Big Love, even in difficult times of confronting the sinners and misguided.

  4. Georgie-ann

    If we interpret “God’s Blessings” in terms of always getting earthly things that we like and that please us, — as rewards, and because “we’re just the apple of His tender loving eye” and this is how He proves it to us, — it just sounds way “too easy” and also too shallow,…more like the kind of sales message promoted by a TV commercial, and not like the reality of “the full Gospel.”

    Luke 19:10 “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

    I would rather think of God’s Blessings along the lines of the Fruit of the Spirit being birthed and matured within us, creating a noticeable difference between a lonely, selfish, jealous or bitter outlook and existence, and a heart that feels the “joy of the Lord” and gratitude for His acceptance, restoration and personal salvation,… God Himself, and His Spirit within us, being “the pearl of great price.”

    Galatians 5:22-26
    22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

    Our “soul realm” is obviously easily pleased by either type of blessing,… but I think it is by the understanding of the maturing “spirit” growing within us, that we come to realize and appreciate the comparative value and sacrificial nature of the greater gifts imparted to us by God’s Spirit alone,…

    Matthew 13:45-46 [The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price]
    45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

    God’s faithfulness to us not only consists of imparting these precious spiritual blessings to us, but He does also promise to watch over us and protect us, as we continue in His ways,…

    Proverbs 7:2 “Keep my commands and live, And my law as the apple of your eye.”

    Zechariah 2:8 “For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.’ ”

    Nehemiah 8:10 “Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.’ ”

    Our soul realm can be easily distracted,… its focus on our own selves comes very naturally,… but God continually reminds us and calls us back to Himself from His Word:

    Revelation 2:4 “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

    We pray to keep the right perspective in our relationship with God:

    Isaiah 64:8 “But now, O LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand.”

    Psalm 17:8 “Keep me as the apple of Your eye; Hide me under the shadow of Your wings.”

    Always remembering:

    1 John 4:19 “We love Him because He first loved us.”

    The importance of the following verse really cannot be overestimated concerning our Life in Christ, and our walk with God in this life:

    Hebrews 4:12 “For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

    God knows us so much better than we know ourselves, and calls us on to greater things,… we can never assume to have completely “arrived”!

    2 Corinthians 3:18 “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

    Amen and “so be it!”

  5. Georgie-ann

    How do we live as individuals — responsible for ourselves, our actions and our attitudes, before the Lord — AND as members of a society that appears to be breaking up into many contradictory pieces? The social “game plan” appears to be — more and more — “every person/ideology/theology for him/her/it-self.” All preceding definitions, expectations, and parameters are simply “out the window,” and many appear to just be opportunistically and (very obviously) manipulatively “making it up as they go along.” The flagrant aggressive and accusative positions of those attacking the foundational moral fabric of our society, make it seem that God Himself could be put up for a vote, and “the people” — as a vain and pompous immoral majority — could band together in their sins, and vote Him right out of His God position!

    This would have appeared to be a joke, or very embarrassing folly, not all that long ago. But now, the more that idiotic things are being repeated and treated “as truths,” one begins to wonder where it can all be going,…

    The corruption of the self-flattering, self-deceived, vulnerable “soul” aspect of mankind is being exposed for exactly what it is (and is capable of): grandiosely foolish, lost in imagination, calculating, presumptuous, self-seeking and self-justifying, unstable, suggestible,… And it becomes a basic fraud — “keeping up its own self-designed appearances” — when separated from God.

    The OT prophet, Haggai, could be speaking to many even today:

    Haggai 1:6 “You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, Earns wages to put into a bag with holes.”

    If these indeed are the “end times,” I would guess that God is allowing it to become absolutely clear once again, just how low mankind can sink on their own arrogant and non-listening terms without Him.

    John 15:5 “I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.”

    As Christians, it is vital that we stay closely connected and faithful to our God and His Words alive within us.

    John 8:31 [ The Truth Shall Make You Free ] “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.’ ”

    John 15:7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”

    1 John 2:14 “I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one.”

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