2018-10_LT-Misconceptions

My Faith

Common Misconceptions About Jesus

From as early on as I can remember, in my childhood, I had an illustrated children’s Bible. The pages were filled with colorful images depicting the most famous Bible stories — Noah and the ark, Jonah and the whale, Jesus in the manger. I remember especially the images of Jesus as an adult. He wore and white robe with a red stole across His chest; He had dark brown hair and olive-colored skin; and His face always shone with bright eyes and a warm, welcoming smile. This was a Jesus my young self was interested in and excited to know. I wanted His eyes and His smile to point to me, radiating with the love that spilled over from His heart.

I was fortunate enough while growing up to have an image of Jesus that was actually pretty accurate — warm, gentle, even Middle Eastern — and this image helped me to grow in my faith in and love for the Lord. However, I also encountered a lot of images of Jesus while growing up that were less accurate, less helpful for prayer and worship, and sometimes straight up phony. In this blog, I hope to highlight some common misconceptions about Jesus, and, in doing so, to lead us into a more in-depth knowledge of and love for His heart.

Jesus does not belong to any of the modern U.S. political parties.
People can be all too quick to use Scripture verses and warped images of Jesus to promote their political agendas. Whether because He welcomed children (Mark 10:14), protected foreigners (John 4:7-10), celebrated women (Luke 7:46-48), or opposed divorce (Matthew 14:8-9), people seem always to find a way of contorting the Gospel to fit into the frame of their own political ideologies. However, the truth is that Christ’s message of salvation and freedom for all is so radical, counter-cultural, and otherworldly that it transcends any modern political school of thought. Jesus is neither liberal nor conservative; instead, He brings a message of the justice and equity of the Kingdom of God, which surpasses all the earthly ways of man (Matthew 20:12-16; 1 Corinthians 1:25).

Jesus was not a starry-eyed hippy who always wore a lamb around his neck and skipped through flowers all day.
Without a doubt, Christ is the Good Shepherd (John 10:14), please don’t get me wrong here. Christ is gentle and tender and warm. However, Jesus is not a push-over. The message of salvation that He brought was sometimes divisive (Matthew 10:34-39), and many people were scandalized by the things he taught and the ways He spoke about the Kingdom of God — “this is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (John 6:60). Jesus taught things that were challenging, and He didn’t shy away from defending what the truth was, even when “many of his disciples drew back and no longer walked with him” (John 6:66). Jesus certainly is our good and gentle Shepherd, but He did not compromise the challenges of the Christian life for the sake of “being nice.”

Jesus did not shrug off sin, so long as it was not super obviously bad and you didn’t kill anyone.
Jesus tells us that there is a place prepared for each of us in His Father’s house (John 14:2) and that each of us is called to enter into the Kingdom of God; however, Jesus gives us guidelines about how we are to approach His Father and how we are to enter His Kingdom. For example, Jesus says that “no one comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6) and that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eyes of a needle than for the rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (10:25). Jesus even gives us a specific prayer to pray to His Father (Matthew 6:9-13) so that we might know the best way in which to relate to God. Jesus desires to bring us into His Father’s Kingdom, and He knows that we will arrive there only if we follow the guidelines of freedom and goodness set forth by God. Rather than sluffing off sin, Jesus calls us to a higher standard of love and selflessness, repeating a number of phrases with the structure “you have heard that it was said. . . but I say to you,” (Matthew 5:21-48) calling us into an even deeper devotion to His heart and His Father. Jesus loves us too much to be complacent with our sin — He wants us in His Father’s house, and He knows that we will get there only through the way laid out by God.

Jesus was not a shiny Greek god who floated around on a cloud and never had any problems at all.
The Catholic Church teaches that Christ was both fully divine and fully human. This truth means that, because Jesus was fully divine, He was perfect in holiness and enjoyed an unadulterated communion with the other persons of the Trinity. Additionally, because Jesus was fully human, this truth also tells us that He was like every other human person, in all ways except sin. Jesus had similar human experiences to our own — He got angry and drove out the merchants in the temple (John 2:13-17), wept at the death of Lazarus (John 11:35), and ate breakfast with His friends on the beach (John 21:12). Jesus experienced deep anxiety while praying in the garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:35-36) and great peace and consolation while he praised and thanked His Father (Luke 10:21). Most of all, Jesus suffered torture and humiliation during His Passion, the culmination of which ended in His death on the cross. Christ knows our human suffering, and not a drop of that suffering is alien to His cross. Jesus understands our humanity, for He was immersed fully into it in His incarnation.

I could go on with common misconceptions about Jesus, but my core point in this: Jesus is much more complex than we often make Him out to be, and we would be foolish to think that we have figured Him out totally. Jesus desires that we might know Him more deeply each day, and this journey of growing in intimacy with the Lord will continue until our final rest in Heaven. Moreover, the Lord has granted us many opportunities to know His heart: Sacred Scripture, the lives of the saints, and our own experiences of the Lord in prayer. Perhaps each of us might respond to the challenge to continue growing in knowledge of and intimacy with our Lord, whether through Scripture, spiritual reading, or prayer. He desires to know each of our hearts and to show us His truest identity. Let us respond to that desire by seeking to know Him.

About the Author

Nick Bernard

I once played a character named "Jim" on an ad for my city's local Catholic radio station, and my friend Kelly played "Kathy." Unfortunately, my career in radio was pretty short lived (maybe twenty minutes total?). My relationship with Jesus is simultaneously beautiful, raw, intimate, and wild, and I wouldn't have it any other way. The Lord continues to invite me deeper into His love, and I can't wait to see where He'll take me next. If you'd like to follow along with me in my journey with Christ, you can find me on Instagram @n1ckb3rnard.