Jesus Outside the Lines

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Most of us have seen, if only in the movies, the drama of a “hostage statement.”    
Unseen kidnappers force their hostage to sit in front of a camera and speak – perhaps assuring the world that he or she is alive and well, or to state the philosophy or demands or threats of those who have done the kidnapping.  It’s a charade, of course.  The hostage is being forced to talk.   
These days you’re probably not the only person who wonders if certain groups have tried to kidnap Jesus.
They trot him out before the watching world.  They make him endorse their group’s perspectives, using his own words as recorded in the Gospels.  But of course they are careful not to empower Jesus to repeat everything he has ever said, omitting any sayings that might contradict the group’s most cherished ideals.
Are we talking about groups on the Left or groups on the Right?  The answer to that question is Yes. 
Conservatives are quick to pounce.  “This is so true of liberals.  They’re always quoting Jesus out of context.”  Liberals pounce right back.  “What a perfect description of the Right.  They prop Jesus up as if he’s an official spokesman for their nonsense.”
But as author and pastor Scott Sauls points out in his book Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who are Tired of Taking Sides, it’s well worth the effort to try to stand in each other’s shoes. 
Let’s begin with self-described progressive Christians.
Progressive Christians love Jesus.  They deeply admire the way he cares about “the least of these” – especially the marginalized, the poor, and the oppressed.  Jesus places a high value on the sanctity of every human life, and he calls us to fight the systemic injustices that trap millions of people in feelings of hopelessness and cycles of poverty.
What about those on the Right?
Conservative Christians love Jesus.  They deeply admire the way he cares about “the least of these” – especially the unborn.  Jesus places a high value on the sanctity of every human life, and he calls us to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. 
Both sides rally around Jesus as he one who cares about human life.  One group places special emphasis on life inside the womb, the other on life beyond the womb.  Conservatives think that sexual integrity is a very big deal.  Progressives think that liberating people from sexual biases is a very big deal. 
Left-wingers are pretty sure that a vote for candidates on the Right is a vote against Jesus.  And right-wingers are just as sure that a vote for candidates on the Left is a vote against Jesus.  Both sides are confident that Jesus is in their camp, and launch attacks on the immorality and callousness of their opponents, whom they label Left-Wing Marxists or Right-Wing Extremists. 
Sauls asks, “Could it be that both sides are right and both sides are wrong?”
In the words of author Anne Lamott, “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image if it turns out he hates all the same people you do.”
Each end of the spectrum is standing strong for things that are worth fighting for – but all too often to the exclusion of other things that are just as much worth fighting for.  Jesus can never be contained by one group’s political or sociological perspectives.  And he made it clear that we are always called to pray for, care for, and love our enemies – whether real or perceived (Matthew 5:43-48). 
That’s why there’s no place in God’s kingdom for declaring, “My Jesus is better than your Jesus.” 
With deep humility, we must acknowledge that he is nobody’s property and nobody’s hostage. 
In the end, one thing matters above all:
Have you allowed this Jesus you say you follow to be the Lord of every part of your life?