Jesus, Nice Guy or King?
What is the image that you have in your mind of Jesus? Is he a “nice guy?” Today, in the Gospel he defines himself as “meek and humble of heart.” Is this a good thing? How does it relate to how we see Jesus and how we understand authentic manhood?
Here, Jesus is defining himself. And one of the consequences is that too often in our modern world, we look at Jesus as being a pushover. We see somebody who is gentle and has been cast down, and we assume that we can walk all over him.
Not a pushover
Jesus is not a pushover, contrary to many contemporary presentations of Jesus. We tend to want to see Jesus as a nice guy. How does this measure up with the description of him as a king?
As Christians we have become too apologetic. We should repent of sin, but not apologize for speaking the truth in a clear and charitable manner. Jesus never apologized. When 5,000 Jews were offended at his Bread of Life Discourse, he let them walk away. He did not explain away the truth that he had just spoken.
As Christians, we let ourselves get pushed around. We become so concerned without offending, that we allow ourselves to be offended. God will not be mocked. It is important to stand up for the rights of God.
The right to religious freedom is rooted in the very dignity of the human person, whose transcendent nature must not be ignored or overlooked. God created man and woman in his own image and likeness. Without the acknowledgement of his spiritual being, without openness to the transcendent, the human person withdraws within himself, fails to find answers to the heart’s deepest questions about life’s meaning, fails to appropriate lasting ethical values and principles, and fails even to experience authentic freedom and to build a just society. (Pope Benedict XVI, 1 January 2011)
We live in a world that needs true examples of authentic freedom. Too often, we slip into an image of freedom that is merely debauchery. To build a just society needs courage and action, which should be characteristic of Christian men. This means opening ourselves up to the transcendent, that which is beyond our own experience, so that we can give of ourselves without counting the cost.
Without a true Christian sense of manhood, we get cheap imitations that present manliness as foolish aggression. But manliness comes rather from having dominion over oneself and one’s passions, not dominion over others. We all serve a master. Many men nowadays serve the master of their own passions, selfishness, and insecurity. If we are going to be true men, we need to learn to serve Christ and his Church.
“No one can serve two masters” (Mt 6:24). Who are these masters (Greek: kyrios)? One is Christ, our one true Lord – Kyrios. The other is mammon – the false kyrios, the false lord. To serve mammon is to enslave oneself and become dependent on some kind of material or spiritual good. Notice that mammon is called a master, who is served as one serves a king. We either serve God and love Him and despise mammon, that is, our attachment to material and spiritual goods, or – it is terrifying even to think – we love our attachment to these goods and, perhaps unconsciously, we begin to despise God. (Dajczer, 2012, p. 22)
Some men are obsessed with telling others what to do. But the true Christian man learns to listen and obey the voice of God.
Now, this does not mean that the true man is devoid of passionate feeling. Rather, he learns to subject it to reason, and ultimately to moral law. A true man is supposed to imitate the description of Aslan – the Christ-figure in the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. When Susan hears about Aslan from the Beavers, she is deeply afraid. Mr. Beaver responds “‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” (Lewis, 1950) In this rests the masculine genius. We are not called to be safe, but we are called to be good. We are called to be dangerous to evil and protective of all that is good. This is how we live out our call to be meek and humble like Christ.
True Image of Jesus
Jesus is “meek.” The word in Greek praus can mean gentle, meek, humble and mild. Jesus describes himself as “humble.” The word in Greek is tapeinos and means depressed, humiliated, base, cast down. So, we have Jesus using some serious language to describe himself in a humble way. He is not seeking power for its own sake. In this, he separates himself from our common experience of leadership in this world. So many people seem attached to power for its own sake.
The world wants us to be “nice guys.” Jesus wants us to be meek.
The world wants us to be pushovers. Jesus wants us to stand up for the oppressed.
The world wants us to be safe. Jesus wants us to be good.
During this life, we will never accomplish fully to seem like Jesus. But we are all called each day to grow into the men we are called to be, made “in the image and likeness” (cf. Gn. 1:27) of God, a God who is “meek and humble of heart.”
Benedict XVI. (2011). Message for the World Day of Peace. https://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/messages/peace/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20101208_xliv-world-day-peace.html
Dajczer, T. (2012). The Gift of Faith.
Lewis, C.S. (1950). The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.