I keep hearing this phrase, “people like Jesus but not the church”. The other evening on our local radio station the DJ was expressing his agreement with that statement. He even went as far as to say something to the effect of: “when you read the NT it is really hard to not like Jesus, who spreads a message of love and peace and hope”. The problem is that Jesus’ followers often do not match up to his ideals. The problem that unbelievers have with Christianity is not Jesus but His followers.
Granted, Christians can be really stupid. I say that because I am a Christian and I say and do some really stupid things. There are many times in my life when I am not accurately representing Jesus. I could certainly see why someone would like Jesus better than me. That seems to be a no-brainer.
But, is this idea of “we like Jesus but not the church” really the whole story? I am left wondering whether it is the biblical Jesus that they like so much. After all wasn’t this same Jesus the one that instigated a mob cry of “crucify Him”? Isn’t this the same Jesus that caused people to turn the other way because He sounded like a weird cannibal? Isn’t this the same Jesus that said some really harsh things to the Pharisees? (That’s okay, though, nobody likes the Pharisees, especially closet Pharisees).
While I agree that such a statement may very well be true, I also have to say that I am not certain that such a phrase is really helpful. Something tells me that Jesus would not make a statement like this: “Folks really like me, but unfortunately I cannot gain more followers, because the one’s that I do have are screwed up.” No! Jesus really does love his bride. And can you really say that it is possible to love Jesus and not His bride? I find it unhelpful to say something about ourselves that the Lord Himself is not willing to say.
So, let’s be really honest in an era where church bashing is fun: If people are repulsed by the Church they are repulsed by Jesus. The Church, warts and all, is a product of Jesus. It is after all HIS Church.