If Jesus were to walk the earth, especially the United States, today, where would He go? What would He do? Who would He spend His time with?
I ask myself those questions every so often. I don’t think most Christians understand the answer.
Jesus on Earth
To figure out where He would go today, let’s see where He went when He did walk this earth. We find the story of Jesus’ life on Earth in the four gospels – the first four books of the New Testament in the Bible.
He spent some time talking with the Pharisees, Sadduccees and scribes – the religious leaders of His day. They frequently asked Him questions, mostly to try to trap Him (for example, washing hands before eating, Mat. 15:1-9; asking for a sign in the sky, Mat. 16:1-4; Jesus’ authority, Mark 11:27-33; paying taxes, Mark 12:13-17; the resurrection, Mark 12:18-27; the greatest commandment, Mark 12:28-34; picking wheat on the Sabbath, Luke 6:1-5; healing a man’s hand on the Sabbath, Luke 6:6-11).
A few of those events took place in church (the synagogue in those days).
However, Jesus spent most of His time with tax collectors and sinners outside the synagogue walls. He did not attend church Sunday morning and Sunday and Wednesday nights, a men’s group on Monday, a couple’s study on Tuesday, an outreach ministry on Thursday, and a weekend conference at a retreat center.
Not that those are bad things; indeed, all of them are good. But He did not fill His schedule with them.
He preached in public (the Sermon on the Mount, Mat. 5-7). He explained the kingdom of God in parables (four soils, weeds, mustard seed, yeast, hidden treasure, pearl and a fishing net – Mark 13). He healed many people (for example, leprosy, Luke 5:12-16; a paralyzed man, Luke 5:17-26; raising a boy from the dead, Luke 7:11-17; He cast out demons, Luke 9:37-43).
Jesus spent a lot of time with His 12 chosen disciples, teaching them all kinds of things about God the Father and Himself.
He performed miracles. He fed 5,000 people (John 6:1-15); walked on water (John 6:16-21); healed a blind man (John 9:1-12); and raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:38-44).
He talked about His death (John 12:20-36), then was crucified and resurrected (John 19 and 20).
OK, that’s an overview. So, what would Jesus do today?
Jesus today …
I think He would spend most of His time walking the streets, going from city to city and town to town, spending time in homeless shelters, businesses, at football stadiums and rock concerts – anywhere people gather who need to hear what He has to say.
Should we follow that example?
For many years I felt that my “calling” was to serve God at secular newspapers. Christians routinely celebrate people who enter the “ministry,” meaning they work full-time for a church, religious organization or as a missionary. That’s not a bad thing, but that has not been my calling.
Again, where would Jesus go? To the church or a mission field?
What is a mission field? I attended a church a long time ago that had this banner on the altar:
Every heart with Christ is a missionary. Every heart without Christ is a mission field. Which are you?
I like that a lot. I don’t need to be ordained by man to be a missionary. Jesus did not attend seminary. Indeed, people were shocked that He spoke with authority even though He was only a carpenter’s son and had no advanced religious education (Mark 1:22).
Some Christians today want Jesus to become a politician. They are looking for the Christian solution to all the problems this country faces.
I get that. Jesus talked about social issues – feeding the hungry, adultery (let’s deal with that before we even get to homosexuality – right?), judging others, healing the sick and injured, the rights of children, serving others …
Jesus also talked a lot about the kingdom of God, describing to all who would listen what God is really like.
That’s why I call my blog “the liberal conservative.” Social issues like these often are the domain of liberals. Explaining who God is remains the focus of conservatives.
America needs both. Jesus did both.
Jesus did spend some time with the religious leaders of His day. Often, however, He warned the rest of us about their hypocrisy and deceit (Mat. 23:1-12).
Jesus ‘in church’ today …
If Jesus visited your church this Sunday, what would He see? What would He say about your congregation?
Certainly, there are wonderful churches who preach the Bible and everything in it. Jesus would love those places.
But, in general, I fear for the church today. Many churches tell us what we want to hear. Many churches are little more than a social club.
What’s the point?
We must stand out
In the Old Testament, God gave His chosen people a whole bunch of rules and regulations to live by (see Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). Why? Because God is a tough taskmaster?
No. Many of those laws and rules were for the benefit of the people – and still would benefit us today.
I believe that the overriding principle, however, is that God wanted Israel to be different from everyone else. He wanted them to live differently, and to worship differently. When Israel rebelled and wanted God to give them a king, God told them that they did not need a king; they had God as their leader. Israel insisted, so God relented. He’s like that. He’s not going to force Himself on us.
But Israel paid a huge price. As we do today.
How are Christians different from everyone else? Why would a non-Christian want to join your church? Do we have something attractive that others are seeking?
What would Jesus Himself say about that?
Jesus’ message to us
Jesus gave people outside the church the benefit of the doubt every time. He did not judge people. He condemned their sin and challenged them to “sin no more” (John 8:1-11), but he loved people.
One exception: the religious leaders of the day, who knew the Scriptures and should have known better. He called them blind guides, thieves and hypocrites (Mat. 23).
I fear Jesus would give the same message to many churches today. Many people reject the church today, thinking the church represents Christ. Many churches do not.
That’s why we need to read the Bible for ourselves, and find a church that preaches that – and only that.
Many churches today are not worth Jesus’ time. But the people who live in this country definitely are worth His time.
Since that’s the way Jesus would live, that’s the way we should live too.