What do you think Jesus looks like? When you hear the name “Jesus” what image immediately springs to mind? Whatever image pops up probably came from a picture or painting or description of Jesus from somewhere other than the Bible because nowhere except for a few vague references in Isaiah (who wasn’t even around when Jesus was alive) does it say what Jesus looked like. We’ve all seen the pictures of Jesus with blue eyes and long, flowing, almond colored hair – almost blond in some pictures – probably wearing a white robe (who wears white in the desert?), a sash of some sort whether rope or cloth, and sandals (at least THAT was probably correct). But scholars pretty much agree that isn’t likely to be an accurate representation of Jesus. COULD Jesus have looked like that? I guess the person who created the universe can look like whatever he wants, but is it likely? No.
I was thinking about this because in my research for one of my sermons (How to Make A Chocolate Chip Cookie) I came across a quote from Senator Robert Kennedy who had gone on a tour in South Africa after his brother President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. It was 1966 and Sen. Kennedy was championing the anti-apartheid movement twenty years before that effort became popular and after the tour, he spoke to LOOK magazine in an interview and said, “At the University of Natal in Durban, I was told the church to which most of the white population belongs teaches apartheid as a moral necessity. A questioner declared that few churches allow black Africans to pray with the white because the Bible says that is the way it should be, because God created Negroes to serve. ‘But suppose God is black’, I replied. ‘What if we go to Heaven and we, all our lives, have treated the Negro as an inferior, and God is there, and we look up and He is not white? What then is our response?’ There was no answer. Only silence.” (from Wikipedia and other sources)
But suppose God is black? That is one of the most powerful statements I’ve read because its implication is so profound. Too many people in the world today make sweeping assumptions about what the God of the universe wants when in fact, if they only actually READ and LISTENED to what God wants, they would find that it is far distant than their moral presumption. For centuries, slavery was sanctioned because “that’s the way God wanted it.” It’s not, but people would use Scripture to justify it and twist around the meaning of the Bible to suit their own needs. Women were treated as inferior because “God created women that way” when in fact, Jesus held women in high esteem and even Paul had women disciples who taught about Jesus with men and to men. Children were treated no better than slaves and sometimes like property or tools because they were supposed to “honor their father and mother.” I guess those same people never read the parts of the Bible where Jesus warns against harming the children or causing them to sin or to get in the way between him and the children. I guess they never read the parts of the Bible that tells fathers to raise their children well and admonishes parents to raise their children up in the way of the Lord (mind you, that’s not just TEACH them about God, but raise them up in his ways by MODELING a Christ-like / God-like pattern of living). Racism, sexism, ageism, and pretty much every kind of morally negative “ism” out there has been justified in the Bible. Take a look – a real look – at the Bible and you will find that the Bible is both more complex and more simple than that.
I think Jesus sums it up best when he tells us in John 13:34-35 to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples if you love one another.” The Lord of the universe said it three times in two verses. Love one another. Must be pretty important. Here’s the thing. If you feel God is calling you to do something that goes against this simple moral directive, question it. QUESTION IT! Is it coming from God or from man? Is it coming from our Heavenly Father or is it the result of fear, hate, or prejudice? Because the great story of God in the Bible is seen through the lens of love and to see it any other way is to twist the narrative around. Love one another. That’s ultimately God’s message for us.