After forty-years as an evangelical pastor, I have preached more than 1600 sermons. Most of them were designed to encourage—sometimes prod—my fellow Christians to follow the way of Jesus. Love like Jesus. Serve like Jesus. Forgive like Jesus. Sacrifice like Jesus.
But are Christians the only category of people who want to be like Jesus? I don’t think so. In fact, why do we assume people have to become a Christian before they can want to be like Jesus? There may be more than a smidge of elitism in that assumption.
People may not believe in Jesus in the “born again” sense of believing. They may not be convinced that the historical Jesus ever existed as presented in the Bible. They may despise Christians and be nauseated by their belief in “Jeeeezus.” They may not even believe in God. But most people want to be like Jesus. That is to say, they want to be the kind of person we Christians believe Jesus to be.
Even though we Christians are supposed to believe original sin spoiled human beings through and through, I believe there’s a leftover longing in every person’s heart to be a person they can admire. Not in a narcissistic way but in an aspirational way. For in spite of the reality of the sin condition, human history proves that human beings can still admire beauty—moral and material. And excellence—moral and material. We can admire courage and want to display it, honesty and want to express it, wisdom and want to attain it, love and want to give it.
Whether a person knows or believes that Jesus is the embodiment of these virtues, most people want to attain them. And until they do, they—and we among them—can never be deeply content. For we will remain less than we sense we can be.
“Less than we sense we can be…” There’s your first hint about where I am heading.
But first I invite you to suspend your skepticism and consider my optimism about the natural person’s remnant moral attraction to Christ-like virtues. If you can do that I have a proposal for a fresh approach to leading people to Jesus—or what we call evangelism. And in the process we might even make Facebook a better place.
…but I’ll get to that in my next post. Stay tuned.
Photo by Felipe P. Lima Rizo on Unsplash