Can You Like Jesus but not Like His Followers?
“I like Jesus a lot. It is just those Christians that I can’t stand.”
Have you ever heard anyone say this? What do you think? Is this even possible? When I hear someone make a statement like this, the first thing that I think is, “You really must not know that much about Jesus. If you did, you might not be so quick to talk about how much you like Him!”
I wonder how much of the New Testament Gandhi actually read? I am sure that on many levels, he would have agreed with Jesus. Gandhi would have probably cheered Jesus on as he overturned the money changer’s tables in the temple. He would have nodded approvingly as Jesus commended the poor widow’s meager gift of two small coins.
Much of Jesus’ teaching would have also appealed to Gandhi. For example, “But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.” (Matthew 5:39) Also, Jesus words to the rich man who wanted eternal life: “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Go and sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)
On the other hand, I wonder how Gandhi would have handled some of Jesus’ other teachings. Jesus told the crowd that if anyone wanted to be his follower they had to take up their cross and follow him. Jesus called people to follow him. Not a cause. Not a good idea. Not a philosophy. He was telling them to follow him and the way that they did that was to die to themselves.
Jesus did more than just give some nice teachings. He said some things that would have sounded crazy on the lips of Gandhi or anyone else that has ever lived. After healing a blind man in John 9, Jesus allowed the young man to worship him. In John 11, Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.” (John 11:25) Then, to back up what he had just said, Jesus raised Martha’s brother Lazarus from the dead.
In one of the most controversial passages in the entire Bible, Jesus told his followers, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father but by me.” (John 14:6) In just two sentences, Jesus cut the legs out from under every other world religion. I wonder how Gandhi would have responded to those words? We can’t pick and choose which parts of Jesus’ teaching that we like and don’t like.
So, back to the question: “Can you like Jesus but not like his followers?” If we read the Scriptures carefully, I don’t think that that is even an option. Yes, sometimes Christians can do crazy things and sometimes they may not represent Jesus well. On the whole, however, Jesus and his people are inseparably linked. The Church is referred to as the Body of Christ. We are Jesus’ hands and feet.
Remember what Jesus told the Saul the Persecutor, soon to become Paul the Apostle, as Saul was terrorizing the young Church? “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” Like it or not, when you get Jesus, you get his followers too!
What do you think?
Annie and I are serving the Lord in Brazil. We are training leaders and helping plant churches. Would you consider joining our team? Just click here to get involved. Obrigado!