Was Jesus a Nice Guy?

The question was posed: What would Jesus say about Guantanamo Bay? In some ways, this is a great question because all Christians should be concerned about what our government does in our name. However, in other ways, asking this question gets the answer-er into a lot of difficult theology, the most important of which is making statements on behalf of Jesus. We must be very careful not to try to put words into Jesus’ mouth or simplify Him. But since the debate was brought up, I decided to weigh in with the following comments.

First, Rome did much, MUCH worse things to people who were 100% innocent. They fed people to lions because they didn’t like something about them, let alone if they did something against Rome. We do not have a recorded word from Jesus about Rome except, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar and to God what is God’s” when people were complaining about over taxation. So I think that if you asked Jesus, you wouldn’t get the answer you expected because nobody ever did.

This icon shows the 2 natures of Christ and also seems to show two aspects of God - His love and judgement

This icon shows the 2 natures of Christ and also seems to show two aspects of God – His love and judgement

Second, this belief that Jesus was a “straight up nice guy” is not based in what is recorded in the gospels. Yes, Jesus was loving and a picture of love, but love is NOT the fluffy teddy bear thing that is believed today. Jesus had no tolerance for sinners who did not repent of their sin. Jesus asked God to forgive those who killed him was an example of his love towards the world but think about it for a second: Jesus was God, the second person of the Trinity, at least that is what Christians believe. It was a great act of mercy that He did not strike them all dead at that moment when God allowed himself to be murdered for the sins of the world. It doesn’t mean that they were all forgiven of all their life’s sins at that moment or that Jesus was asking for that. He whipped people with a belt who did not honor God like they should. Jesus called a woman a dog based on her race/religion. He was extremely hard on people who thought they knew the answers and told others that if they didn’t hate their family in comparison to their love for Him, they weren’t worthy to follow Him. Jesus was never a “fan” of any philosophy, never answered people’s questions in a way that they understood, and never allowed himself to be pigeon-holed by a question. Jesus is much more complex than that. To make him less is to vastly underestimate him and to show an ignorance towards the Gospels and what they actually say.

The reply to my comments was a belief that Jesus was all about forgiveness and mercy and love, not about being a judgmental man. “How else would he preach about those things then not do them himself, and moreover, how would I allow myself follow the teachings of such a hypocrite? Just yesterday we heard the gospel about the Samaritan woman at the well who had 5 husbands or something living with a dude who’s not her husband, and Jesus was so nice to her…didn’t call her a dog or anything.”

My main point is that you are simplifying Jesus far too much. As Ben has been arguing, human beings cannot comprehend the mind of God and since Jesus is God, we equally cannot comprehend the mind of Christ. To reduce Jesus to mercy alone is to ignore the other aspects that can be clearly seen in the gospels. I did not point out these examples to imply that Jesus was “judgmental” but to emphasize that He did not simply sit in a circle and just “love everybody.” 

Love is patient and kind but also honest and truthful. So yes, you can say Jesus loved everyone but love is complex. Christians have not historically believed in “2 Gods,” which would imply that the God in the Old Testament is different than the God in the New Testament shown to us in the person of Jesus. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We have a very hard time understanding how all of these facets can exist in God, but that is part of the point Ben is making. We can see a perfect picture of this when God appears to Moses and declares His name (His character): “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7). 

Jesus did not deal with people in the way that people normally deal with others (lacking in compassion and understanding). He loved them where they were but did not excuse their sin. He did not demand that justice was performed on them at that moment, but He ALWAYS tells them to “Go and leave their life of sin,” which is exactly what He told that Samaritan woman you mentioned. Jesus is not a hypocrite but you cannot honestly read ALL of the gospels and come away with the impression that He excused people’s sins or that He simply patted everyone on the back and called it good. He was hard on people whose pride kept them from hearing Him and showed compassion on those who were humble towards Him (another reflection of what the OT about God, that He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble). This week we learned about the Prodigal Son. God (the father in the story), received the son back with great joy as the son returned in humility (it was humility for him to simply return, he didn’t need to say anything for the father to see it).

Overall, my main point is that we cannot simply pick and choose which aspects of Jesus make the most sense to us or make us happy to see. When we do that, we severely twist the gospels and start moving very far away from the Church’s understanding of Jesus that has been held for 2000 years.

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