There comes a time for every public figure when he needs an image makeover. Perhaps his “brand identity” has become tarnished by negative publicity or simply outdated through neglect. Such must be the case for the Lord because there have been quite a few people who have thrust themselves into the role of His personal image consultants.
Take, for instance, the professor of religion from a renowned Christian university who recently wrote an article for CNN called “Jesus was a Dirty, Dirty God.” His catchy title was clearly meant to be an attention grabber—the type of headline that begs a deeper look.
The first impression I had of it was that the author was employing this intriguing title to re-showcase the Lord as a “friend of sinners,” a Savior who is willing to get His hands dirty reaching out to the down-and-outs of this world. Surely, such a reminder of God’s mercy would be a great way to freshen up His image to a world that considers Him to be increasingly irrelevant.
But no, this would-be consultant was taking a different approach, which was clarified in the opening line of his article: “Jesus was a lot more like you than you think.”
“Ah,” said I, “he’s going right after the notion that the Lord is obsolete, no longer in touch with the real world of the 21st Century.” I could understand his point and so I continued reading. But it didn’t take long before it was obvious that his attempt to emphasize the Savior’s humanity was nothing more than a cheap publicity stunt intended to sell books.
In his spirited endeavor to rebrand Christ as someone people can relate to, he made outlandish statements such as Jesus “snapped back at the Pharisees with a tone fit for late-night television… [the] behavior of a frustrated man who… sure knows how it feels for annoying people to get under his skin.”
Such demeaning statements made it clear that this man’s knowledge of the Lord was superficial at best. The final capper to me was when he painted in graphic colors the bodily functions of our Savior—statements so disrespectful to the Lord that I dare not even quote them.
In the corrupt world of marketing, “shockvertising” is considered a perfectly acceptable method of getting noticed. According to Wikipedia, it is the “employment of graphic imagery designed to break through the advertising ‘clutter’ to capture attention and create buzz.”
I realize such methods are temporarily effective in the crass realm of advertising, but how could a minister of the gospel consider them appropriate?
The truth of the matter is that human attempts to rebrand God are always inappropriate, usually heretical and sometimes blasphemous. The disconnect humanity has with the great Jehovah is not because His image needs to be touched up; it is because man has exalted himself to the point of seeing God as little more than his equal. How far we have fallen from David’s accurate perception of the situation when he exclaimed, “Of what importance is the human race, that you should notice them? Of what importance is mankind, that you should pay attention to them?” (Psalm 8:4 NET). And when he exclaimed, “I will praise the name of God with song and magnify Him with thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30), he was not talking about singing trendy worship songs that give a person goose bumps. To “magnify” the Lord means that we humble ourselves in His awesome presence!
This man’s pathetic portrait of Christ is just one more in a long string of attempts by the enemy to “dumb down” the image people hold of God. Satan has been clouding people’s perceptions of the Lord ever since the Garden. One of his favorite and most effective tools has been the employment of false teachers: prideful, needy people who misrepresent the Lord to the undiscerning masses who listen to them.
One of the primary common denominators with all false teachers is their fear of man and their lack of fear of God. It seems that every time one of these charlatans communicates with people, there is always an underlying motivation to gain approval for themselves (“Please, please like me!”). In the case of the article I am referring to, it came at the expense of Jesus Christ’s reputation.
Fifty years ago, that venerable saint A.W. Tozer worried about the public’s changing perception of the Lord. He was clearly alarmed over the increasingly skewed image false teachers were painting of the Lord. It was during one such bout of concern that he wrote the following.
“I refer to the loss of the concept of majesty from the popular religious mind. The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshiping men… With our loss of the sense of majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine Presence… This has come just when the forces of religion are making dramatic gains and the churches are more prosperous than at any time within the past several hundred years. But the alarming thing is that our gains are mostly external and our losses wholly internal; and since it is the quality of our religion that is affected by internal conditions, it may be that our supposed gains are but losses spread over a wider field.” [i]
I can only think that Mr. Tozer would sit down and weep if he could witness for himself how low the concept of God has sunk in the thinking of today’s typical Christian. Many professing Christians have reduced God to manageable terms, to a god who will think the way they want Him to think and act the way they want Him to act. They do not want a sovereign and majestic God to whom they should humble themselves. They prefer to imagine Him to be just like them, only a little bigger. They diminish the Lord in their minds because they want to be the center with Him there to serve them.
Of course, during man’s probationary time on earth, God allows people to entertain whatever image of Him they wish. But the day is fast approaching “when human pride will be ended and human arrogance destroyed. Then the LORD alone will be exalted” (Isaiah 2:11-12 GNB).
Perhaps this is a good reminder to all of us to be extremely careful not to attempt to rebrand God into something or someone He isn’t. It would be much better to go to His throne of grace and humbly ask Him to reshape our perceptions about Him and about our rightful place before Him.
[i] A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, Harper and Row, Publishers, San Francisco, 1961, p. vii.