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Jesus and the super bowl: a reflection on "he gets us"

Updated: May 30

Once again, the Super Bowl was pretty entertaining - an overtime win by the Chiefs, yet again. I'm just salty because my Seattle Seahawks have not yet found anyone as talented as Pat Mahomes. But that's not the subject of this post.


Jesus is. More specifically, the campaign called "He Gets Us," which has posted multi-million dollar ads during the last couple Super Bowls.


If you haven't heard it by now, they have become pretty controversial. Why? Well, it's not because ads about Jesus are not needed, but rather it has to do with the picture of Jesus being presented. Is it the right picture? Or is it the full picture? Is it drawing people to an accurate portrayal of His full identity? It matters.


At the end of this post, there is a link to a very good and detailed article by Natasha Crain explaining why this campaign, which was started with very good intentions, could end up drawing people away from the Jesus of the Bible. She does a very good job analyzing the theology involved in the distortion, so I won't repeat what she says. I encourage you to read it carefully, probably more than once.


As I have watched the ads, I find myself conflicted. On the one hand, it's so good to see the humility and love of Jesus dispalyed in his followers, and lifted up as the hope of peace in our divided world. I am a HUGE fan of any kind of marketing that highlights Jesua and his life. I want to be clear about this - Jesus has transformed all of who I am, in ways I still fail to explain adequately. There is no way to describe Jesus' impact on humanity. On the other hand, I am afraid these campaign are actually pushing many people toward a dangerously incomplete view of Jesus. And make no mistake, the most effective way to distort the Christian faith is to change the conversation around Jesus' identity.


In his short book, "The Ten Commandments of Progressive Christianity," professor Michael J. Kruger explains that the number ONE way to usher progressive theology into your church is to make Jesus a "model for living more than an object of worship."(1). In other words, make Jesus a great moral example. The He Gets Us Campaign, with a focus on offering a cynical world an inspiring picture of Jesus, plays right into this. In the ads and on their website, Jesus is portrayed as a human who understands everything we as fallen people have gone through, are going through, or will go through. That is a good picture, isn't it? It most definitely is - except that Jesus' divinity is almost entirely ignored. If you focus solely on his humanity, and ignore the fact that He was God in the flesh, and you can easily, woefully lead people astray.


If you ignore Jesus' divinity, He is just another moral person among many.


In campaigns like this, Jesus is put forth as a savior, which of course he is. However, his Biblical role of savior is based on Him being God himself in the flesh, and as such, he is not just a good moral example, but is deserving of lordship. He isn't merely an inspiration to mankind, but to see Him clearly, we must make Jesus our undivided object of worship. Kruger says "Here is where we come to the most foundational problem with this first tenet. By removing the person of Jesus from the equation as an object of worship, it essentially makes Christianity a religion of moralism." (2)


Does Jesus' lordship make us better morally? YES! However, making Jesus into a good moral example for humanity introduces age old debates about what is truly moral. It pulls Christ down into a subjective debate. It also positions us to begin comparing morality, something that can make Christianity a religion of deeds, or merit.


A transcendent and divine Jesus rises far above all our individual and subjective notions of what moral actually means.


The truth is, none of us deserve the love and kindness of Jesus. We just don't. The only reason we get it is because of God's grace, which has nothing to do with merit or deeds. That is truly inspiring, but it is only inspiring because Jesus himself is God, He came down to earth and brought the fullness of the deity to all humans. It not only inspires us, but convicts us of our sin, forces us to repent, and draws us into a reconciled relationship with the King of the universe. THAT inspiring figure is the one who calls the shots in our life, is worthy of our worship, not just a good moral example to follow.


To be clear: Jesus is why we care about the hurting and marginalized, why we put others' interests above our own, why we serve and sacrifice, why we love people who are hard to love, why we deny our feelings when they lead us astray. Jesus is why we care about this world and do something about it. We do inspiring things precisely because we have a really good idea about how much our sin hurt God and separated us from Him.


Inspiration is the fruit of understanding Jesus as God, not just another good moral human.


So why does this matter? Are we making too big a deal out of it? I really don't think so. In today's frenzied world, you don't get much of peoples' attention, so if you are going to market the most significant and profound person to ever walk our planet - if you're going to market the identity of Jesus, you need to present a full picture, one that includes His incredible life, his love for all people, AND his call for righteousness and repentance.


Of course you can't do that all in one ad, but as far as I can tell, the He Gets Us campaign doesn't ever end up there. If we're going to draw people into a conversation about Jesus, it needs to find it's way to the fullness of who He is.


More than that, let's not simply watch things like these ads and stop there. Let's train ourselves to be critical thinkers around the things our culture is feeding us. Some are accurate, others aren't. How do we know? We know by being good stewards of the Word, holding cultural ideas (especially about God) up to the light of scripture.


In the end, there is nothing inherently wrong with the campaign. And the powerful message of loving our enemies with the sacrificial service of Jesus is a good one for all of us. However, I believe it’s an incomplete, and therefore misleading, message. Jesus was both man and God, servant and master, savior and Lord. And the love of Jesus included both service and confrontation, grace and truth, hope and conviction. Without these balancing truths, the ads can give our world the wrong impression of Jesus and his message. Because humans are involved, we cannot simply assume things like this are all correct or lack an agenda, but must do our best to try and discern truth from error.


Read Natasha's article for yourself and see what you think: 7 Problems With The He Gets Us Campaign


Daren


(1) Kruger, Michael J. . The Ten Commandments of Progressive Christianity: (Seminary President Diagnoses & Critiques Ten False, Often Appealing, Half-True “Commandments” and Offers ... & Theological Response) (Cruciform Quick) . Cruciform Press. Kindle Edition.


(2) Ibid.

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