The Congenial Christ

Gentle Jesus? Not Always! Introduction

On the other hand…

After the last two sections in which we emphasized the abrasive nature of the Lord, I feel it is necessary to remind us that the confrontational side He often demonstrated is not the entirety of His nature. Because we live in a world that has sissified the Savior and promoted doctrines of grace without responsibility, the theme of a mild-mannered Messiah probably does not require as much emphasis. It is however important that we see the Lord for Who He really is and, for that reason, let me remind you of a very descriptive passage which offers a striking dichotomy of the Divine nature.

Luke 12:4-7 (NIV)

"I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."

Notice again the odd combination of admonishments within the first paragraph. First, Jesus harshly warns His listeners to fear God, because men only have the ability to kill the body but God has the authority to throw a person into hell (verses 4-5). Then, without even a break in thought, He transitions into words of gentle comfort reminding His listeners that God sees and cares for even the hairs on their head (verses 6-7).

Conclusion: The Divine nature, the very characteristics from which we were created (Genesis 1:27), is nothing less than a balanced nature. As such, in order to see Jesus for Who He truly is and, as a result, become like Him, we must also be balanced. Those who view God as a harsh, hellfire and damnation type Deity have only a one-sided relationship with Him. Those who see Him as a gentle, warm fuzzy type Deity of grace and tolerance only know one side of Him as well. Be warned! Satan wants nothing more than to convince you that it is enough to worship just 50% of His nature.

con·gen·ial (kanˈjēnēal) 

Adjective: (of a person) pleasant because of a personality, qualities, or interests that are similar to one's own. (Webster's New World Dictionary)

It doesn't take much searching of the Scriptures to find glowing examples of this part of Jesus' nature. Below are a few of my favorites:

Jesus chose to touch a leper in order to heal him when, in fact, he could have done so by just speaking the word. (Matthew 8:1-3)

Jesus took a child into His arms. (Mark 9:36-37)

Jesus stopped a burial procession, touched the funeral bier and raised a dead man because His heart went out to his mother, a widow. (Luke 7:11-17)

Jesus saved the life of a woman caught in adultery. (John 8:1-11)

Jesus commended the woman who washed His feet with her hair even though others at the table were disgusted by her. (Matthew 26:6-13)

Jesus looked down from the cross and, while bearing the sins of the entire human timeline, He remembered to care for His mother. (John 19:26-27)

Wow! What a Savior!

Congenial Followers of Christ

But in order to fully establish the congenial nature of Jesus, we need to look beyond His life and also notice the impact His example had upon His followers.

One very important follower comes to mind.

Paul was the last to be chosen. Because of this, Paul called himself an apostle who was "born out of due time" (1 Corinthians 15:8, KJV). Yet it is that unique relationship with the Lord which does, in some ways, give Paul the best possible insight into the congenial side of Christ's character. Not only did Paul receive a concentrated dose of training by Jesus at the beginning of his ministry (see Galatians 1:15-17), he also came to the Lord with a very one-sided, abrasive character (see Galatians 1:13-14) which required a very large dose of congeniality training in order to make him effective. Only through the Divine intervention of the Lord of balance could Saul have ever become Paul.

Much later in Paul's ministry, the apostle finds himself once more in prison for the cause of Christ. It is from that restricted context of humility that Paul writes some of his most congenial texts ever to be inspired. Consider just two.

Philippians 1:12-18 (NIV)

"Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice."

It cannot be overemphasized that the source of this mature attitude came directly from the years of spiritual tweaking he received by the congenial Christ. From this text we see that Paul not only celebrated his imprisonment and thus influenced the "whole palace guard," his congenial attitude also inspired others to "become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear."

Furthermore, Paul, the combative debater and stubborn defender of truth, actually laid pride aside and celebrated the preaching of Christ even when  his enemies engaged in it out of "selfish ambition" in order to "stir up trouble" for him. "The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice."

Interesting Note: This passage is part of a letter which Paul wrote to a church that had been established because of another congenial moment in his history. Remember the prayers and songs of Paul and Silas at midnight (Acts 16)? Remember how the jailer was so impressed by these men that he fell at their feet and asked what he needed to do to have the same faith? That was the beginning of the church at Philippi. That is the church to which he is writing the passage above.

Colossians 4:5-6 (NIV)

"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."

Another letter written from prison gives even more insight into the congenial teachings Paul received from Christ. Notice, from this short excerpt, five important commands of congeniality.

1. "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders;…" - Congeniality requires consideration of others and their context.

2. "...make the most of every opportunity." - By definition, congeniality leads to common ground and relational effectiveness.

3. "Let your conversation be always full of grace,…" - Grace means unmerited favor. A Christian's congeniality must include an element of favor bestowed on others that is neither earned nor deserved. 

4. "...seasoned with salt,…" - It's interesting to note the similarities between these words of Paul and the instructions of Christ during the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:13). Here Paul does not just emphasize the preserving nature of salt, he also points to the congenial seasoning nature of our conversation.

5. " that you may know how to answer everyone." - Congeniality leads to a proper understanding of how to give an answer.


And that makes a perfect segue for the conclusion of this series.

In the next section, we will ask the all important questions, "What was it that governed Christ's congeniality? What factors led Him to respond with confrontational abrasion and what prompted Him to choose congeniality?" That material should make for one of the most timely, most spiritually practical application studies of our day. Do your own study and let's compare notes. The Lord of balance is calling His people into the realm of public expression. Know His nature. Be like Him. Make it real!

Missed the first four lessons of this series? Take a look!
Gentle Jesus? Not Always!: "Introduction"
Gentle Jesus? Not Always!: "The Lord of Balance"
Gentle Jesus? Not Always!: "The Abrasive Savior: Religion"
Gentle Jesus? Not Always!: "The Abrasive Savior: Politics"

Want to continue this series? Go to:
Gentle Jesus? Not Always!: "Keys to Cultural Confrontation"

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