In thinking about Jesus and thinking about America, it’s hitting me hard how un-American Jesus actually is. Even the statement that Jesus is un-American strikes many people as irreverent or rebellious. I assure you I am in no way being irreverent or rebellious. I am an American citizen thankful for where I’ve grown up, the people I’ve met, and the family that I’ve raised here in America. I am however unapologetic about calling out a deep-seated American nationalism that colors our mentalities about Jesus and His values.
Unintentionally, we imagine that Jesus is an American and is for America in all of her exploits. Even within our country’s political structure, people at times imagine that Jesus has allegiance to one of our political parties. The extent to which we hold these mentalities is the extent we misunderstand His nature and values. Remember this Jesus, the One we ascribe infinite worth to, is a Jewish Man (who is God) from the Middle East.
I honestly believe that we can’t overstate how un-American He actually is. He said the same through Isaiah,
8 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” -Isaiah 55:8-9
He wasn’t kidding, nor was He exaggerating. The truth is, nobody natively thinks like Him. It would be sheer hubris for us to imagine “The American Way” is somehow exempt from His exclusion.
For arguments sake, let’s take a cursory look at some of the beatitudes to identify a few key differences. I see the beatitudes as the core values of the Kingdom of God. They are not just values that we should live by, but they are values that Jesus embodies and actually lives Himself. They are His values.
Blessed are the Meek – Ask yourself when was the last time you heard an American political leader espouse the virtue of humility and meekness? Or better yet, when was the last time you saw authentic meekness, not posturing for a media moment, displayed by one of our national leaders?
Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness – We hear much about desiring a better America, a more prosperous and powerful nation, but it’s exceedingly rare to hear political leaders ever mention desiring a greater righteousness in America.
Blessed are the Pure in Heart – This speaks to the issue of ambition. The impure heart is the one that lives for self and is ambitious for promotion. The pure heart is the one that lives for the pleasure of God and the furtherance of His kingdom in the earth.
Blessed are the Persecuted for Righteousness – Not only does this not play well on a national level, it doesn’t play well in the Church. We are so attuned to the American value of the “pursuit of happiness” that even in the church we imagine anything that doesn’t make for our own temporal comfort and pleasure to be a curse. Jesus said the opposite.
This is such a small token of thoughts that illustrate how different He is from us and from our national values.
But what about things like freedom? Doesn’t He value liberty? Absolutely, yes! But the liberty He values is one that is experienced in the heart and leads to an expression of righteous behavior. It is a liberty from the bondages of sin. It is not a human-centered liberty that gives freedom of expression to every wicked passion of a fallen heart. His motives are always God-centered not man-centered and thus His agenda and tactics are thoroughly different from ours.
What do you think? Is Jesus an American in mentality? How is He different? Have we created Him as a God in our own image, similar to the children of Israel with the infamous golden calf?
You can read more from Billy’s archive here or follow him on Twitter @billyhumphrey1