"He Gets Us"

Have you seen the commercials about Jesus that have been popping up everywhere?  The tag line is, He Gets Us, and the short, slickly-produced videos attempt to reimagine Jesus in modern situations.  The idea is that Jesus’ life and teaching have contemporary meaning and application (which they do).  The consortium funding this ad campaign spent $20 million on two Super Bowl ads and plans to spend $2 billion more in the future. 

While I don’t want to be a reactionary crank, there’s something about these spots that seems misguided.  Not all advertising about churches or the Bible is wrong.  I’m not opposed to billboards advertising Bible studies or worship services, or in a modern application a website that offers information.  But the “He Gets Us” ads, in my view, enter another dimension. 

First, the whole thrust of the ads is that Jesus “identifies” with humans, understanding our social, economic, ethnic and political challenges.  One commercial solemnly intones, “Jesus felt heartbreak, too.”  And it is certainly true that as both our Creator and one who came and lived among us, Jesus “gets us” (Heb 2:17-18; 4:15).  However, the commercials do not even mention the real issue that is the cause behind human corruption and the ultimate reason Jesus came:  the word sin does not appear in them (I looked back at several of them and did not see or hear references to sin in them, but I could have overlooked one.).

Second, the ads make Jesus one-dimensional.  He is presented as a contemporary problem solver, but Jesus is so much more.  He is our mediator and high priest, making fellowship with God possible.  He is our king and savior.  The commercials frame Jesus as a peacemaker only, but He Himself said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace … I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mt 10:34).  Jesus is also our judge and will hold us accountable for our unforgiven sins.  Not one of these significant but unpopular ideas appears in the ads.

Third, the ads attempt to popularize Jesus.  In these very short vignettes Jesus is portrayed as a religious figure that everyone can relate to.  An implied notion is that Jesus accepts everybody as they are.  One of the Super Bowl commercials boldly proclaims, “Jesus loved the people we hate.”  There are some elements of truth here:  Yes, Jesus loves everyone, but He does not accept everyone as they are.  He is forgiving and welcomes all on the basis of renunciation of our sin and absolute commitment to Him.  Jesus will never be popular to the masses; He Himself said so (Jn 15:18-25).  Spending millions of dollars on professional media to make Jesus appear hip and cool will not make Him popular.

So, what to do?  Broad spectrum efforts to reach the lost are often ineffective.  In the past I’ve tried to reach the lost by mass mailings, billboards, fair booths, newspaper articles, door-knocking, “letter-boxing” (in London) and even our present Meetup readings.  Precious few have been converted via these methods because they are basically impersonal and easy to dismiss.  (Two women were recently on U.S. 29 holding “God loves you” signs.  While their zeal is commendable, such displays are of dubious value.)

Our greatest influence comes from simply living a faithful Christian life before our neighbors, co-workers, fellow students  and friends, cultivating opportunities to speak to them about Christ.  In doing so, we will certainly distinguish ourselves from the world and be examples of faith in action.  Not everyone will embrace that, but hopefully those who are searching will take note and investigate further.

But this advice, according to the “He Gets Us” campaign, is futile.  They say, “Many people’s only exposure to Jesus is through Christians who reflect him imperfectly, and too often in ways that create a distorted or incomplete picture of his radical compassion and love for others.  We believe it’s more important now than ever for the real, authentic Jesus to be represented in the public marketplace as he is in the Bible.”

This assertion assumes that the Bible is not an effective source of information about Jesus.  If He wants to remain relevant, Jesus needs a PR team and mass media blitz.  This makes me wonder:  How did people ever learn about Jesus before the advent of TV and satellites?  Pretty much through the Bible and Christians “imperfectly” living out their faith. 

ADDENDUM:  The Remnant Reality

Scripture amply documents a distressing reality:  those who truly honor and submit to God are always the minority.  What a terrible grief it must be to God that most of His creatures across ages have both renounced and denounced Him.  It hurts God – and us – when His laws and values are rejected by our fellow man.  Where do we see this remnant principle?

In the ark.  Children often learn this story from coloring books, stuffed toys and interactive books.  While those have age-appropriate educational value, we must also remember the awful global carnage that God wrought because of man’s wickedness (Gn 6:5).  Can it be that only eight people out of all humanity were saved from the flood?  Sadly, yes.

In Canaan.  603,550 able bodied soldiers, not counting women, children and the elderly, left Egypt under Moses’ leadership.  Only two of that number over the age of 20 entered the promised land (Num 32:11), a tragedy referenced by NT writers as a warning against unfaithfulness.

In Samaria.  It is common for righteous people, vexed by the rampant sin around them, to feel they are the only ones really trying to serve God.  Elijah felt that way (1 Kgs 19:10, 14), but God corrected his metric:  “I have reserved seven thousand … whose knees have not bowed to Baal …” (19:18).  Still, 7,000 is merely a fraction of the total Israelite population.

In the church.  Paul, in denying that God has cast off Israel, says, “At this present time there is a remnant … Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it …” (Rom 11:5, 7).  So it is today of most ethnic Jews.  If we are waiting for Christ to be embraced by the masses, we have a long wait ahead.  “Enter by the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it” (Mt 7:13).  Christianity will never triumph by popularity.