Could Jesus be an influencer if he was around these days – and, of course, on social media? At first glance, the answer seems to be ‘yes’. Jesus would claim specialised knowledge, authority, and insight in his niche area which might ‘influence’ people. Followers of Jesus are known for asking as they think about their behaviour ‘What would Jesus do?’ and many Christians talk about how Jesus influences their lives. (The world mightn’t be too sure here as the world has little ability, in my view, in distinguishing the good deeds of a Christian or a non Christian – especially when the deeds themselves are similar – and generally the recipients of the ‘good deed’ don’t care at this point – they’re simply grateful for the help.)
I started to doubt the answer ‘yes’ when I thought about what product or services Jesus would promote. I’d be happy if he mentioned the ELCE but what if he didn’t and mentioned other denominations instead? How would I feel either way?! And my answers suggest the old pendulum of pride or despair – something we all have to negotiate – and so my question and answers seem to be leading me … where? To my life on my terms and I ‘use’ Jesus to get the best life possible? Hmmm …
And then I thought that if the world knew Jesus and heard what he said then, in fact, he might be banned from social media! Jesus isn’t a guru from God here to help us get a better portion of life than we’d otherwise have. The whole lead-up of God coming himself into the world and then Christmas – Immanuel – God with us – is in a context that the world is – we are – trapped in rebellion, sin, evil, death – and not just of old age in our sleep – but all sorts of death for all sorts of people most of which people have inflicted on others – and God hasn’t come to tinker with things but to bring about a new creation in this ‘old’ world and rob the world of its power to make us afraid, ashamed, and live according to the ‘survival of the fittest’ or ‘I’ll do ‘it’ to you before you do ‘it’ to me’. Jesus would turn the world on its head by using death to defeat sin and death’s power and to bring about forgiveness and new life in this world. A new life with him, in him.
This is what Jesus is talking about following on from his cross and resurrection. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26 ESV)
This isn’t ‘influence’ but rather the gift – and challenge – of a new life in Christ. This is a radical newness of life – a new creation in Christ – nurtured through words, water, bread and wine with Jesus as we live in this world which is no longer our home for 2023 and beyond and forever.
Jesus isn’t an influencer! He is so much more! Christians say, ‘He is my Lord, my God, who gives me life and still serves me and so I want to follow him always. That is what living life to the full is all about!’.