The more we know, the more jaded we often become. And as society has changed over time, our need for heroes has changed as well.
There was a time when we wanted people that we could look up to—who were just better than we were in some way, usually in terms of their character. But as time has gone on, we’ve become somewhat jaded as more and more of the people we put on pedestals cannot withstand scrutiny. We idolize athletes for their physical ability and then are shocked to find that their character is flawed. We learn that a large number of so-called public servants are nothing of the kind, and as their deeds come to light, we realize that the image we constructed was wrong, and we often feel betrayed by that. We feel fooled.
It’s just safer to pick heroes who are more like us. They’re flawed, they make mistakes, they don’t force us to evaluate our own moral or ethical character, because they tend to do the things that feel right emotionally. Maybe that’s why our society loves to elevate celebrities who live lives of complete moral abandonment: they’re doing what we wish we could do!
On the other hand, if heroes are too “good,” we distrust them. Or we just find them dis-interesting. We like our role models dark, complex, maybe even a little twisted. We like them in many cases because the anti-hero doesn’t shine a light on our own failings.
More and more, people try to do that with Jesus.
Jesus doesn’t fit the earthly hero mold
“He was just a man. He liked to go drinking with friends. He fantasized about sex. He didn’t care about following the law. He was a lot more like me than the “religious types” have been telling me. And you know what? He didn’t like religious types, either!”
And the only thing those claims are based on is the simple truth that we don’t like the idea of a pure and undefiled savior who might actually demand the same from us. Hebrews 7:26 describes Jesus as “holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.”
Does that sound like a hero who would fill the theaters? Not from a worldly standpoint, but it’s the kind of hero we needed to save us from our own sins.
We’ll talk more in future blogs about Jesus’ relationship to the law of Moses, the legal system under which he lived. But whatever we say about how Jesus lived and the decisions he made, we have to start with the simple fact that Jesus did all things by the will of God, and without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. — 1 Peter 2:21-23
The penalty of sin is death
Why is this so important to understand? Because it is a cornerstone of faith in Jesus Christ, in that he came to this earth to die for our sins. If Jesus had sinned, then he would have been deserving of the penalty for sin, which is death. We often don’t like to think about that, because it seems so unreasonable that a single relatively harmless act—such as lying, being disrespectful to a parent, swiping something that the other person didn’t even need anyway, or any number of minor offenses—should result in a death sentence.
But that is exactly what the Bible teaches: “The soul who sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:4). “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. — Jam 1:14-15
Why is sin such a big deal to God? Because it is a violation of God’s purity. John talks about the concept of light and darkness a lot in relation to God’s nature, whether because it is literally true or because it is the best analogy available to describe why God cannot abide sin. Darkness cannot co-exist with light, and sin cannot co-exist with God because it is foreign to His nature.
Sin was not in Jesus’ nature
Jesus was tempted “in every respect as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). When we recognize that Jesus was divine as well as human, we can understand how he could withstand temptation time after time, while we find ourselves failing. It was not in Jesus’ nature to sin, because Jesus was divine . But he understands what it feels like when the world and its influences tugs at your being. I’m not sure how that worked, although I have some opinions on it. Regardless, all we need to know is that Jesus lived a sinless, blameless life, and no one before or since has done that (Romans 3:23).
If Jesus did sin, then he could not have offered a perfect sacrifice “one time for all” on behalf of you and me (Hebrews 9:27-28). We would still be without hope, and our guilt would still separate us from God.
That should impact the way we think about sin in our own lives. Do we just accept it? Do we believe that we can come to God and have fellowship with Him if we’re unwilling to deal with the sin in our own lives? Jesus’ message was consistent: if we want to enter the kingdom of Heaven, we need to be willing to repent of our sins and seek a life of holiness (Matthew 3:2, 11:20, Luke 13:2-5).
Are we setting that expectation? Being a Christian means being a disciple (Acts 11:26), which means we try to follow him, emulate him, obey him in every way that we can. We know that we often fail, and when we do, Jesus is the advocate for all who are in his body (1 John 2:1-6, Ephesians 5:23). But are we seeking the Lord when we’re holding on to our own sinful lifestyle?
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” — 1 Peter 1:14-16
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous ( that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. — Ephesians 5:1-12
Our message to the world is not that we’re following a flawed, fleshly man who will make us feel good about the people we are now. We’re following the pure and holy lamb of God, who can make us into the people God wants us to be.