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Are Americans more liberal than Jesus?

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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American flag draped a man's shoulders standing before a large crowd (Credit: E.N.K via Flickr)

A research company recently asked 1,000 Americans what they thought Jesus would think about some of the issues of our day. The results are surprising, to say the least. Of those surveyed:

  • 48 percent support legal abortion, but only 20 percent think Jesus would agree.
  • 48 percent support gay marriage, but only 32 percent think Jesus would agree.
  • 58 percent support the death penalty, but only 34 percent think Jesus would agree.
  • 56 percent support higher taxes on the wealthy, but only 45 percent think Jesus would agree.

Their beliefs were closer to Jesus’ perceived views on strict gun laws, reducing carbon emissions, and universal health care.

What does this discrepancy say about us?  I think it illustrates this important fact: people judge Christ by Christians.

Today’s best-known Christian ministers tend to be more conservative.  Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson come to mind.  Even Joel Osteen, while known more for practical sermons than theological essays, opposes gay marriage and abortion, and supports Israel.  If our most popular preachers embrace a particular moral stance, most Americans are likely to identify it with Jesus’ position.

The statistics on capital punishment would seem to contradict my thesis.  Many conservative Christian ministers support the death penalty, while only 34 percent of Americans think Jesus would.  But here we may have a generational conflict at work.  While nearly half of practicing Christian Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) support capital punishment, only 23 percent of practicing Christian Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) agree.

Here’s my point: Christians reflect Christ to the world, for good or for bad.  We are his body (1 Corinthians 12:27), called to transmit his light through ours (Matthew 5:13).  We are the sermon people hear, the Bible they read.  As church attendance declines across the country and the percentage of those with no religious commitment rises, it is increasingly important that Jesus’ followers represent him effectively to our culture.

How?  To reflect the light, a mirror must be pointed at it.  Are you focused on Jesus, yielded to his Spirit, seeking his glory?  In a recent Cultural Commentary, “Reba McEntire’s ‘Pray for Peace’ goes viral” I quote part of Abraham Kuyper’s poem on seeking God’s will.  Here is his poem in full:

I am not sent a pilgrim here,
My heart with earth to fill;
But I am here God’s grace to learn,
And serve God’s sovereign will.

He leads me on through smiles and tears,
Grief follows gladness still;
But let me welcome both alike,
Since both work out his will.

No service in itself is small,
None great, though earth it fill;
But that is small that seeks its own,
And great that seeks God’s will.

Then hold my hand, most gracious Lord,
Guide all my doings still;
And let this be my life’s one aim,
To do, or bear thy will.

Kuyper was famous for his assertion, “There is not an inch in any sphere of life of which Jesus Christ does not say, ‘Mine.'”  Are you his today?