by Michael J. Klassen
Jesus was a bad-ass. Really, there’s no other way to say it.
Even at a young age, we could see glimpses of his true colors. At age 12, he flouted the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and mother.” After celebrating the Passover, he disobeyed his parents by remaining in Jerusalem when he was supposed to accompany their delegation on the journey home to Nazareth. His behavior resulted in his parents spending three days looking for him. The desperation in his mother’s voice was apparent: “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you” (Luke 2:48).
After preaching his first sermon, his listeners nearly threw him off the edge of a cliff. Unlike most people, Jesus wasn’t concerned with being liked. He knew who he was—the son of God—and he wasn’t afraid to condemn his family and friends for their parochialism (see Luke 4:14-30).
Jesus Wasn’t Particularly Interested In Winning Anyone’s Approval…
Jesus didn’t seem overly concerned with keeping his family happy. Once, while preaching, his family showed up, intent on speaking to him. “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you,” someone told him. Jesus’ response? “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?…Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:46-50).
Another time, a man approached Jesus and expressed his desire to become one of his disciples…after his father died. How could anyone criticize the devotion of this man? But Jesus responded by saying “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:21-22).
One day, while preaching in the synagogue on a Sabbath, Jesus saw a man sitting in the crowd and noticed he had a withered hand. “Stand up,” he said to the man. Now, one of the Ten Commandments charges us with keeping the Sabbath holy by refraining from work. While Scripture didn’t specifically define healing as work, the Pharisees and teachers of the Law in Jesus’ day did.
“Stretch out your hand,” he commanded the man. Then Jesus healed him. The Pharisees and teachers of the Law were incredulous.
We won’t even go into the fiasco when Jesus cleared the moneychangers from the temple courts.
Like I said, Jesus wasn’t intent on winning any popularity contests. In fact, his behavior and his claims angered the authorities of his day so much that they nailed him to a cross. The night of his crucifixion, no one came to Jesus’ defense, and he only left behind about 120 followers.
In his book Jesus: Mean and Wild, Mark Galli writes,
The warm and friendly Jesus, although an attractive idea, is but an idol. This Jesus can be stern, confrontational, purposefully confusing and even impatient. He sometimes shames and scares us, but loves us enough to draw us inexorably toward him: For Jesus has come to us, the real Jesus—mean, wild, and pulsing with an unnerving and irresistible love.
…Yet Jesus Was Infinitely Loving
Jesus was a bad-ass and he certainly wasn’t nice. But he was infinitely loving. There’s a difference, you know.
True confession: I’m a nice person. I like it when people like me. All too often I paste a smile on my face and act like my world is just fine, even when it isn’t. At times I try to hard to avoid offending people or sharing my opinions. Sometimes my niceness repulses me.
Being a loving person looks much different. Loving people means being honest. “Speaking the truth in love,” as Paul articulates it (Ephesians 4:15). It means acting in the best interests of others, even if it offends them.
Jesus didn’t pull any punches. He sought to please God rather than the people around him. He offended the religious establishment and hung out with irreligious people. He also healed the sick, forgave the sinner, and ultimately, gave his life so we might live.
I want to be more like Jesus. I want to be loving rather than nice.
Don’t be nice. Be like Jesus.
If you want to read a great article about the real Jesus, click here: Good News: Jesus Is Not Nice
Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado. He ate too much Halloween candy this week.