If Jesus Emigrated to Modern-day America…

Photo by Brennan Burling on Unsplash

If Jesus emigrated to modern-day America, would we Christians even notice?

Most of his ministry wasn’t in houses of worship. In fact, he upset the religious by breaking one of their rules to heal a man’s withered hand. I wonder what rules he might break if he came to one of our Sunday services?

Jesus spent his days out where the people were—in the streets, by the lake, on a mountain, or in the homes of “sinners.” If he hung out at the fish market or at a celebrity’s party, would we Christians ever come across his path?

Would we find Jesus marching in the streets, waving a banner for social justice? Isaiah 42:1-2 says, “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.”

Or would he bring justice by filing lawsuits against the government, or mobilizing voters to end government oppression?

None of these are how Jesus stood for justice the first time he came. He never spoke a harsh word against the Roman oppressors—he saved his harsh rebukes for the hypocritical leaders of his own religion. It’s hard to imagine Jesus today condemning a particular political party, the media, the teachers’ union, the immigrants, or any other modern group on which we blame our problems. Yet so many of us Christians invest so much of our time and so many of our words fighting these perceived enemies, we could entirely miss Jesus calmly telling someone to put down his sword.

Would we find him at Costco, where we Christians stock up on our emergency food supplies, or at the gun store, where we pick up a pistol and extra ammunition to protect ourselves and our food supplies for the days when Christians are persecuted and anarchy reigns?

When we Christians boycott our gay cousin’s wedding, might we miss Jesus there too, turning some water into wine?

Then where would we find Jesus in modern-day America? Could we find him if we looked in the right places?

We could start with the sick—the hospice, the shut-ins, those with physical or mental handicaps. More of Jesus’ ministry was invested in healing the hurting than almost anything else.

We could look among those bound by chains—everything from those who manifest demonic influence to those caught in destructive addictions. Jesus dramatically turned their lives around.

We know he fed the hungry crowds. Perhaps we’d find Jesus among the poor.

We could look wherever those shunned by society hang out—like the Samaritan woman at the well, or the tax collector at his booth. What are those places in town that good Christians like us would never go? If we did, we might find Jesus there.

We could try gathering with others who were hungry for God, no matter their backgrounds. Of the many people who followed Jesus, we know of at least one who wanted to overthrow the government (Simon the Zealot), one who used a corrupt government position to get rich (Matthew the tax collector), one demonized woman (Mary Magdalene), two with murder in their hearts (James & John, wanting to call down fire on an entire village), and so on. They weren’t united by common theological positions, like our Sunday services are. They weren’t even all nice people! Jesus didn’t invite them to join his synagogue service once a week. Instead, he promised that whenever and wherever they would gather “in his name” there his spirit would be in the midst of them.

We Christians in America are busy doing our church things, fighting for this cause or that, protesting and suing and demanding our civil rights. None of these things are wrong, and some of these may come from a good heart. People might even applaud us for being good Americans, or good Christians.

But these activities don’t look like Jesus. Is it possible that we’ve forgotten what he looks like?

If Jesus emigrated to modern-day America, I’m afraid we Christians might be walking a path that rarely crosses the path chosen by our Savior.

So are we really “following Jesus”?

Published by Jim Baton

Jim Baton (pen name) has spent over 25 years living in the Muslim world, where he’s been involved in a variety of peace and reconciliation activities including interfaith dialogue, training elementary through university students in peace principles, and bringing Christians and Muslims together to pray. Jim's writing, speaking and teaching is helping Christians and Muslims build bridges of understanding, love and prayer both in Muslim nations and at home in America. His novels contain a depth of understanding regarding the roots of the Christian and Muslim conflict, how to bring healing to Abraham’s broken family, how to combat terrorism with non-violence and love, and how to become a true peacemaker.

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