John Stevens mentions on his blog a new video game “I am Jesus.” The idea is that the game simulates various events from Jesus life in order that you can get to know the events of his life through experiencing them.
John rightly points out that whilst this may seem like a great idea, the way we encounter and discover Jesus is not by trying to be him and not through game experiences like this but through the written words of Scripture.
Furthermore, he identifies the crucial issue that you and I are not the central characters of the story. I am not the hero. Incidentally, this is true of other parts of the Bible too. I am not David facing Goliath, I am watching on with the Israelite army.
In that context, I also picked up on a request for suggestions yesterday for evangelistic resources to give to primary school children. A few books and booklets were suggested that present the Gospel in an age friendly format. My own recommendation was and is that you get hold of a pack of Luke’s Gospels in easy to follow English, something that the children can read with their parents and something that you can’t be accused of manipulation for giving out.
One person suggested that the best way to go was with give aways such as key rings and “WWJD” bracelets. My response to that is a strong “please no.” The last thing we want to do is to attempt to get kids’ attention with tacky tat. It doesn’t really impress them and in fact the messaging ends up taking us away from the Gospel.
You see, there’s a further dynamic to the “I am Jesus” problem and it’s seen with the WWJD brand. WWJD is about asking “What would Jesus do” in any given situation and then to try and imitate him. But that’s not the Gospel. Jesus is not just an example.
If Jesus was at the wedding reception you attended last week and there wasn’t enough to drink, maybe he would have turned water into wine. If he walked into the waiting area at A&E perhaps he would have found someone who had been backwards and forwards and on many waiting lists without any joy then healed them on the spot. If he noticed that the apple tree outside the church building wasn’t in fruit, maybe he would have cursed it. The point is though that he did all of those things, not just because he was Jesus but because they suited his specific purposes. But also, to repeat again, we are not Jesus.
In fact, the biggest danger comes when we try to be Jesus, not that we attempt to repeat the miracles but we try to be mediator, we try to take the burdens of others solely on ourselves. That’s where we come unstuck.
I believe that instead of asking “What would Jesus do?” we do better to ask “What has Jesus done.” Then we are reminded that whilst we do identify with him in his life and death so that we are united with Christ, the primary emphasis is not so much on me attempting to be Christ and take his place but that he took my place and bore in his body on the cross the consequences of my life.