Reading the Guardian on my friends table last night I came across an article. An article entitled “I bang my head against the wall when evangelicals turn Jesus into Cheesus - No PR agency in the world could sell the disturbing message of a broken man on the cross. That’s why we get Jesus-lite”
This caught my attention. Why is this in the paper? Giles Fraser writes about Evangelicals display Jesus and that it often turns into a Cheesus PR campaign.
My guess is that he hates this falseness. Perhaps he sees a hypocrisy in contrast to the Jesus he has read about? It’s interesting to see how he feels Christians come across to the world and the Jesus they are presenting.
So who is the Jesus he has read about? This is what he says:
“The disciples run away, unable to cope with the impossible demands placed upon them. The hero they gave up everything to follow is exposed to public ridicule and handed over to Roman execution. And the broken man on the cross begins to fear that God is no longer present.
The fact that this is not the end of the story does not take away from the fact that tragedy will always be folded into the experience of faith. Even the resurrected Jesus bears the scars of his suffering. A man who has been through something like that will never smile that cheesy smile or think of faith as some sunny suburban upspeak.”
The suffering Christ is devastating, its weak, it brings about judgement, darkness, the weight of sin suffering placed upon his shoulders. Jesus doesnt bare a cheesy smile. Jesus cries out in pain. This isn’t a bumper sticker moment.
This moment should make us weep.
But it also gives us great joy. This is what Giles Fraser is missing. He says:
“Which is why, for the worst sort of Cheesus-loving evangelicals, the cross of Good Friday is actually celebrated as a moment of triumph. This is theologically illiterate. Next week, in the run up to Easter, Christianity goes into existential crisis. It fails.”
The cross looks like failure to the world. It looks weak and pathetic. But it IS a moment of triumph. Those evangelical cheesus Christians have it right – it’s a place of victory.
It is finished - Jesus cries.(John 19v30)
A wave of hope washes over me. My sin is dealt with. The punishment has been paid for in full. The blood shed is covering me.
At first glance the cross looks like a massive fail. But then look again. There is no failure here. My sin is being dealt with. The Father is showing how much he loves us by sending his Son to die for us. (John 3v16) Come and look at the cross again.
Giles Fraser concludes with:
“But the problem with PR Christianity is that it can easily transform Jesus into Cheesus, which is a form of Jesus-lite, a romantic infatuation, a Mills & Boon theology that makes you feel all warm inside. The Gospels, however, tell an altogether more disturbing story. And there is no PR agency in the world that could sell the message of a man who told his followers that they too would have to go the way of the cross. That’s the problem with Cheesus. He won’t really suffer and he doesn’t ever die.”
In some sense he is right – we don’t want a Cheesus. We don’t want Jesus-lit or a mills and boons theology. But we DO want the cross and we most certainly want the resurrection. Thats what puts a smile across our face – Jesus is alive. Giles Fraser is right, a cheesus wont ever suffer or die. And we don’t want that Cheesus. But we want a Jesus that suffers, dies and rises again!! That is the good news of the Gospel.
And who is this PR agency that he believes could never sell this message? The message that we all must die to ourselves and carry our cross? Who possible could be this PR agency? Well, for the last 2000 years the PR agency has been the bride of Christ – the Church. The church is the one that beckons people to come and see Christ, come and die to yourself, come and find comfort in this suffering servant who deals with your sin and come and rejoice in the resurrection. Sometimes we get that wrong and it can look like a cheesus. But we as the church are the ones to display Christ to the world – a suffering christ, a weak but triumphant Cross and a glorious resurrection.