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Jesus is uncool

Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

“Cool: fashionable and attractive at the time”

Jesus was not cool. He was not fashionable. He was not attractive during His time or anytime for that matter. Isaiah 53:2 puts it this way, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.”

Many attempt to make Jesus look too-cool-for-Jewish-school. They propose a rock-and-roll rabbi by painting a picture of a tall, dark and handsome champion of the downtrodden. But they forget that, chances are, he was a short, sun-weathered carpenter. Having been a roofer for eight years I can tell you that any outdoor trade that includes swinging hammers, sharp nails and splintery wood can be hazardous to your health and to your appearance. From sunburn to windburn to tool-induced injuries, carpentry is an appearance-depreciating trade.

Not only was Jesus uncool in the way that He looked but also in the message that He preached. When He claimed to the Jews in John 8, “before Abraham was born, I am” He was preaching an unacceptable message to an antagonistic audience. His not-so-subtle claim of deity (“I AM” is the personal name of God in Exodus 3:14) was met with a band of rock collectors who sought to stone Him for His audacious assertion.

By perpetrating a 21st century version of “Cool Jesus Syndrome” the Church has “hip” on her hands. For many in the Christian subculture of ultra coolness, the one-sided picture of Jesus as the social justice superhero who stood up against the system is very appealing. This Jesus has a soul patch and only buys Red products and green cars. He could sing back up for Bono, turn water into wine and heal lepers at the same time. He’s that cool.

But this is an incomplete picture of the real Jesus. Sure He loved the poor and cared about the environment (after all He made it!), but what often gets lost with this hipster Jesus image is the very reason He came: “to seek and save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10). The full-faceted Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels is much more than a champion of cool causes. Jesus is actually the perpetuator of a very controversial message. That’s why they killed Him—because he claimed to be God and the only way to God.

Although Jesus was open-handed to the poor, He was close-fisted to the arrogant. Some would go as far as describing Him as narrow-minded. Jesus Himself reinforced this stereotype when He said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it” (Matthew 7:13). That narrow gate was and is Him!

In John 14:6 He goes even further when He proclaims, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus claimed to be the narrow gate and the only way to God, a message so radical and unpopular in His day that it got Him and many of His early followers killed. They weren’t tortured and put to death because they fed the hungry and helped the homeless, but because of the controversial nature of the salvation message.

This loving Savior who willingly died to restore us to God offers everyone, everywhere salvation freely on one condition, faith in Him and Him alone for the forgiveness of their sins. Those who reject this free gift will be separated from Him forever in an eternal lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15) where the smoke of their torment rises day and night forever and ever (Revelation 14:10,11).

Not cool, either literally or figuratively.

So what are the lessons for us as followers of Christ? In a 21st Century quest for Hipster Christianity we must remember that the call of Christ is the call to be uncool. It’s the call to pick up our cross and carry a radical and sometimes unpopular message to a broken world. It’s the call to embrace Jesus’ as the narrow gate, though it may appear narrow-minded and exclusive, but to be open-hearted and handed when it comes to the hurting and hopeless.

We need to present the full Jesus to a lost and dying world. We let His life flow through our lives and our lips. Through our lives will pour out a passion for the poor and downtrodden. Through our lips will pour the radical message of hope and life, that can also be highly controversial, since Jesus said His way is the only way of salvation.

When we do this we will be just like Jesus. Some will receive the message and be transformed. The rest may want to crucify us.

Not cool.

Unlikely Fighter

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The story of how a fatherless street kid overcame violence, chaos, and confusion to become a radical Christ follower.

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