Friday, February 16, 2024

Do All Lost People Hate Jesus?

The day after Super Bowl LVIII (and the He Gets Us ad that ran during the game), someone posted the following on Facebook:

Lost people hate the real Jesus. I did when I was lost, and the Bible states that everyone else that’s lost does as well. If anyone preaches a socially accepted Jesus, they’re not preaching the true Christ, they’re actually preaching an anti-christ who appears as an angel of light, but is actually sinful, wicked, and affirming of sin, destruction, and exists to make people feel good about who they are and whatever they do.

Along with that text, they shared this screen capture from Shane Pruitt's X (Twitter) account:

Here are a few thoughts in response.

"Lost people hate the real Jesus." 

While many lost people in the Bible (such as the scribes and Pharisees, and the Sadducean high priest and his cohort) obviously hated Jesus and the threat to the status quo He represented (Pontius Pilate recognized that it was out of envy that the Jewish religious leaders had brought Jesus to him for judgment, Matt. 27:18), many lost people—as yet unconverted—seem to have been drawn to Jesus, finding something about His love and compassion attractive. 

Zacchaeus the tax collector went to a lot of effort to see Jesus (Luke 19). The Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar, even when confronted by Jesus about her current living arrangement with a man to whom she was not married, responded positively to Jesus, telling the whole village the Messiah was in town (John 4). Nicodemus, while still not converted, was drawn by the signs Jesus did, and came to Him seeking truth (John 3). 

A "sinful woman" came into the house of a Pharisee who had invited Jesus to dinner, and she washed Jesus' feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, and poured perfume on them. Jesus didn't rebuke the woman, but rather the Pharisee—the religious leader who had failed to show Him proper hospitality (Luke 7:36-50). It isn't until the end of the passage that Jesus tells the woman that her faith has saved her. Yet she was definitely not displaying hatred toward Jesus before He declared her saved.

"the Bible states that everyone else that’s lost does as well."

I'm guessing that here the writer is thinking of Scripture references such as John 3:19-21:
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
If we read this passage carefully, we see that it says it is everyone who does evil who hates the light. I don't think this is necessarily talking about every unsaved sinner, but rather those who relish in doing what is wicked and don't want to have their lifestyle confronted—those who don't care about being a good person at all. 

But there are plenty of people whose lives are broken by sin, and they feel the weight of that brokenness. They just don't know how to have that weight lifted. I think we see examples in the Bible of people like that (several of whom I listed above) who find Jesus attractive and appealing. That attraction at first may be based on what they perceive He can do for them, but once they come into the orbit of His divine light, they can come to appreciate Christ for who He is, and not just the benefits He can provide.

"If anyone preaches a socially accepted Jesus, they’re not preaching the true Christ, they’re actually preaching an anti-christ who appears as an angel of light, but is actually sinful, wicked, and affirming of sin, destruction, and exists to make people feel good about who they are and whatever they do."

I think this protest, while containing elements of truth, may fall into the error of a false dichotomy. We should avoid at all costs changing Jesus in our presentation for the purpose of making Him more socially acceptable. But if someone finds Jesus appealing when we present Him, does that automatically mean we have exchanged Him for a false Christ? 

The biblical Christ is coming back to judge the living and the dead; that is a truth of Scripture. But He didn't bring people to a salvation decision so much through threats of punishment, as by showing people how much better it is to live under God's kingdom rule as opposed to self-rule (in fact, many of His warnings of judgment seemed to be directed at the self-righteous religious leaders who were keeping people from coming into the kingdom of God through the human traditions they had added on top of God's law). Jesus never affirmed people's sinful actions, but He did affirm their value as human beings who bear God's image. 

If our gospel presentation is primarily centered around a fire insurance message of how to avoid hell, instead of a message of Jesus as the saving Davidic Messiah, are we achieving significantly different results from what happened in the Roman Empire after Christianity became the official religion, and people started claiming Christianity either to (1) avoid persecution or (2) be able to gain positions of influence or power in a system that favored the Christian religion?

As for the statements in Pruitt's social media screen capture, what he says is true as far as it goes. But it omits some vital context. Those who cried, "Crucify!" were not the rank and file common folk of Judea, but a crowd riled up by the religious leaders of Israel. Those leaders were the ones upset that Jesus "claimed to be God, said that He was the only way, called out sin, and rejected what culture and religion had accepted." 

Jesus never overlooked or condoned sin. He called sinners to repentance, and told them to "go and sin no more" when refusing to condemn them. But He did so not in a condemning way, but in a way that they could recognized He loved them and wanted the best for them.

Yet the people whom Jesus confronted most sternly were the ones who were supposed to be representing God. They were supposed to know better, and to act better based on that knowledge. Instead, they loaded people down with heavy burdens they could not carry, and then refused to lift a finger to help them (Matt. 23:4, Luke 11:46). 

I saw the following from missionary Dr. Beth Grant, co-founder of Project Rescue, a ministry to victims of human trafficking, shared on Facebook:

Rosaria Butterfield, the former lesbian feminist activist pictured in the video The Christian Super Bowl Ad They Should Have Made, relates that it wasn’t hellfire and brimstone preaching against her sexual choices that led her to Christ (and to abandon lesbianism and later marry a Presbyterian minister), but a local minister and his wife opening the door to their home to build a friendship with her and have deep conversations in a respectful manner, while still making it clear where they stood when it came to sexual ethics. She was confronted about her sin by the Jesus she saw in Scripture and through the love she received from people whom she had previously viewed as intolerant bigots.

Francis Schaeffer once said that if he had 1 hour to spend with an unsaved person, he would spend the first 50 minutes asking the person questions and listening to their answers, and then spend the remaining 10 minutes explaining the gospel to them in a manner designed to directly address the issues they are dealing with at their current place in life. Too often we have in mind a pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all presentation of the gospel that, while technically correct and theologically orthodox in what it does say, may go in one ear and out the other because we're not answering the questions the person has. Maybe we can take the time to listen to the questions they are asking, and based on our willingness to listen and engage with the person where they are now, they will see our genuine concern for them as a person bearing the imago Dei and be willing to listen to us further, and we can help them see that Jesus is the answer to what they're looking for in all the other places they have tried.

Dr. Kurt Jaros, host of the Veracity Hill YouTube channel, weighed in with this analysis.

One of the repeated critiques I've seen and heard concerning the He Gets Us ad comes from people pointing out that Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, not of the rebellious sinners who had rejected God.

True, Jesus didn't go around Galilee and Judea washing the feet of those who did not follow Him.

He did much more.

He gave His life for them on a cross.

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