Voltaire once wrote, “If God has made us in his image, we have returned him the favor.” This idea, that we make God in our image, is one that has come up a number of times in different settings for me recently. A good friend recently wrote about our tendency to do this with Jesus and got me wondering if I have an accurate view of Jesus. Who is the Jesus that I follow? Do I prefer Christmas Jesus, or do I like to picture Jesus in a tuxedo shirt?
Cultures throughout the centuries have portrayed Jesus just like themselves. This happens on a cultural level, but it also happens on an individual level. You and I do this too, but it’s good to know that having a right view of Jesus is not a prerequisite to following him. In fact, following Jesus, doing life in relationship with him, is the remedy for our misguided images.
If you were to ask me to define what it means to be a Christian, I would point you to Jesus’ simple, two-word invitation, “Follow me.” That’s it. He doesn’t ask us to get our theology or image of him up to par first. He simply invites us into the master-disciple relationship. He asks us to follow him, and as we do he will correct our images of him by revealing who he really is.
This is what happened for his first followers. Few identified him as the Messiah before they began following him, and those who did misunderstood what the Messiah came to accomplish. Even the twelve apostles struggled with this, but after walking with him, following him as his students, they grew to recognize him as the Messiah and after a few false starts, they began to understand the depth of what he came to do.
Our images of him are likely limited. I acknowledge that I do not have a complete understanding of who Jesus is and what he is doing in my life, but I know that if I follow Jesus, really engage in a master-disciple relationship with him, he will be patient with me and teach me. I have come to expect some experience, perhaps a passage of Scripture, the loving act of a friend, or a surprise encounter with grace, to give me a clearer picture of who Jesus really is. If we walk in relationship with Jesus, we can expect our knowledge of him to grow and our relationship with him to deepen .
So the question is this. What is your image of Jesus? What if you invited him to deepen your knowledge of him today?