I imagine that you have seen the 2014 American biographical war film called American Sniper. As per usual, the story behind the movie is much more interesting, as was the furore sparked by the movie.
American Sniper was directed by Clint Eastwood —a personal favourite director and actor of mine— and starred actor Bradley Cooper —who is also a pretty impressive actor— and is based on the story of an American Navy SEAL sniper named Chris Kyle. Kyle’s pinpoint accuracy saved countless lives on the Iraq battlefield and turned him into a legend.
Following the movie’s release, Michael Moore, another American movie director and liberal political activist, made some rather snide comments about the movie on Twitter. What was particularly interesting to me was that Moore’s sarcasm was directed at the nominal Christian faith of the main character of American Sniper. Moore commented, “Tomorrow’s Sunday School [question:] What Would Jesus Do? Oh, I know what he’d do — hide on top of a roof and shoot people in the back!”
In this way, Moore was using the flaws he found in the real-life character of Chris Kyle to make a sarcastic remark about a particular type of Christian faith. The story got even more interesting when a reporter from FoxNews, named Todd Starnes, decided to respond to Moore. In a segment called American Dispatch, Starnes first admitted that he is “no theologian”, but then proceeded to declare, “Jesus would tell that God-fearing red-blooded American sniper, ‘Well done thou good and faithful servant’ for dispatching another godless jihadist to the lake of fire…” You can watch the American Dispatch segment and read more about the debate here.
I don’t know about you, but the image of Jesus crouching in the dirt and shooting someone in the back with a high-powered sniper rifle makes me a little uncomfortable. I imagine that some of the men that you and I mix and mingle with everyday would have no trouble with that type of Jesus at all. We might even make easy converts of them if they thought that Jesus is as prone to violence as they.
To Know is to Believe and Obey
Here’s the point I want to share with you: the more we know about Jesus, the more we will come to appreciate Jesus and believe in him; to believe in Jesus is to obey Jesus; to obey Jesus is to follow his commands.
Well, just before he ascended into heaven, Jesus gave this command to his followers saying,
You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
The apostle Paul described this command another way when he wrote,
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Cor 5:20)
To be a witness and ambassador for Jesus is to tell the truth about Jesus, the truth about him that we have ourselves discovered. When we do this we inspire and help other people become followers of Jesus.
What is the Truth We Know About Jesus?
Many of the bikers I hang out with are fond of joking that God rides a Triumph, quoting the prophecy of Isaiah where it is written: “’If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath […] then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride [a] triumph on the heights of the land […]’ For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Is 58:13–14)
This loose paraphrase notwithstanding, we all know the truth is that Jesus rides a Harley-Davidson Dyna Superglide Custom, which is remarkably similar to my own motorcycle! I too quote the prophecy of Isaiah, where it is written: “Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will [ride] on [wheels] like eagles; they will run [only when they have to] and not grow weary, they will walk [very rarely] and not be faint” (Is 40:31).
Joking aside, the truth about Jesus is
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (Jn 3:16–17)
That God loves the world is a truth that trumps all others and is the only truth that is going to interest other men!
Rather than taking life, like a sniper, you will be sharing truth that gives life!
So, even more important than the debate over whether Jesus would resort to violence or not, I want to impress upon you the thought that we had better be careful about what we tell others about Jesus. Let us not speak from our own values or portray Jesus in a way that we think might appeal to others. Let us speak only from the revelation about and teachings from Jesus contained in the Bible. We can do that by getting to know as much about Jesus for ourselves as we can —and the Spirit is available to help us with that. Then we speak from the certainty of God’s grace made available to all of us in Jesus.
What questionable things have you heard people say about Jesus? List the heresies you’ve heard in a comment below.