Culturally appropriating Jesus

By Joel A. Hess

I have certainly enjoyed a good laugh or two watching so many preachers of political correctness go down because of their own past crass cultural appropriations. That’s not to say it’s a small thing. It is certainly wrong to make light of the hardships of minorities. I am sure I am guilty as well. Please forgive me.

Yet I have come to realize that I am guilty of wearing the clothing of someone else. To be sure, I sure look silly looking like someone I am not. Some might even say I might be making fun of that person.

I dress up like Jesus every day! Yes, the one who reigns over the universe, the one through whom all things are made. Yet, He is also the one whom I put on the cross. He is the one I insulted and swore at as He hung there. I pounded the nails in His innocent hands. I stuck the spear in His side. I fearlessly cried out, “If you really are the Son of God, come down from the cross!” I knew He wouldn’t.

Still, He gave me his clothing like he gave his tunic to those mocking soldiers. He gave me His clothing in Baptism. I walk around claiming I am a son of God, innocent and loved by my creator, calling Him father.

What a joke this looks like sometimes. With God’s name on my forehead, I should know better as I drag His name through my mud. I’m even called a pastor of His church. I preach this Jesus. I tell people they are forgiven in His blood. I brag about the resurrection and put the resurrection in people’s mouths, handling the body and blood of Christ with my dirty hands.

My wife hears my sermons but hears different words at home too often. I struggle with sin and fall plenty. Don’t watch me driving down the streets of Chicago with a Jesus fish on my bumper. As Johnny admits singing Trent Reznor’s words, “I will let you down. I will make you hurt.” Lord forgive me.

Who am I to wear Christ’s robes? Who am I to dress up like Jesus and think I’m holy? It was not long ago I was His enemy. I still act like it from time to time. “Please allow me to introduce myself…”

I have no business appropriating Jesus and His culture of loving thy neighbor, turning the other cheek (oh He turned it alright) and all that.

Yet here I am. I will cling to these robes. I didn’t take them, I swear. They were given to me for free! When God looks upon me, He sees His Son hiding all my sins. When the devil sees me, he sees the One who pronounced me innocent and alive.

It would seem the greatest blasphemy for me to dress up like Jesus. But that is all I got! I will hide beneath His disguise, and He won’t stop covering me up! Neither hell nor death will see me as I sneak on by judgment day and slip away from the grave.

He has dressed me for the Wedding reception and invited me in. He has sown a suit for you too.

2 thoughts on “Culturally appropriating Jesus

  1. Your honesty is very refreshing, and quite true. We, as Christians, often find ourselves speaking and behaving in a way that disturbs our self perception of the person we desire to be. We might curse at another motorist. I must confess I have done this 5 minutes after leaving a church service….more than once, I am sorry to report. I have also made racist comments, viciously attacked the views of political liberals, been less patient and forgiving than I ought. My wife has been a witness to my many private slips over the past nearly 50 years we I have shared. I often have my moments and feel the weight of sins, past and present. I am still dealing with the fallen nature, even as the new man in me continues to struggle for control. As you pointed out in so many ways, we are sinnerstill holding on to Jesus for dear life. We are undone, and we need His grace. Thank you, O Lord, for grace to carry on.

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  2. I think your article reminded me how unworthy and unfinished we are in many respects, and a people of unclean lips, yet we receive the unconditional love and care of Our Savior, and the full time energy of the Holy Spirit to make a path for us, a way to the wedding reception and a set of wedding clothes sowed by Jesus Himself.

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