(20) and in Jesus Christ . . .

When a little child looks steadily into my eyes, I feel mighty uncomfortable, even guilty. In a way Jesus was like an unspoiled child or a newly arrived visitor from a clean, faraway world. He saw our human ways clearly for what they are and made men take a new look at themselves. In his presence many people felt uncomfortable at first, especially those whose high position in society depended on nobody finding out what they were really like. For Jesus reality counted, not mere appearances. He was an embarrassment to men who went through the impressive motions of religion when all the time they were really worshiping power, prestige, and wealth—not God. He could always detect the social climbers, elbowing and scheming their way to places of honor. He saw how respected men seemed to keep to the letter of God’s law but actually went dead against the spirit of it, justifying themselves by all sorts of ridiculous excuses and fine hairsplitting. There was too much pious talk going on in religious circles and not enough genuine service of God. Praising ideals is one thing; actually living up to them is another. There was too much imitation of righteousness, show-off charity without love, pride in humility, and a studied holiness reserved for appropriate occasions. Too many people thought they could buy the grace of God in the Temple, as they could buy favors from the guests they entertained. The consistency, simplicity, and directness of Jesus’ life really upset all men of deceit.

If falsity bothered Jesus, lovelessness bothered him even more. People were so heartlessly self-centered, without concern for the rest of humanity. But in Jesus’ eyes the human needs of others took precedence even over important religious rules of personal righteousness. The venerable observation of the sabbath came second to feeding the hungry or restoring the crippled. For him, people always had priority over principles. One man restored to sanity was worth far more to him than a whole herd of pigs. Jesus saw not social classes but persons; not crowds but individuals. He noticed people and had time for them, even though they were called nobodies and sinners. Jesus was the friend of the outcasts and the downtrodden in the social system of his day. He was convinced that loveless men and their systems are doomed.

Jesus saw through people’s pitiful pretences. But when they realized that he still loved them, a breath of the fresh air of honesty often swept over them. Jesus accepted them, even though he did not entirely approve of their lives at the moment. They could be themselves in the presence of his understanding love, and they could make a new start in life. The loving truth of Jesus was a real tonic. His presence was the power of new life. So Jesus came to know that he could develop men into what their Creator had always intended them to be. He therefore proclaimed the good news, the gospel, that in himself God’s power had come to deliver men. But big men who lived by lies and deceit, who shamelessly exploited the poor and weak, saw that this man of truth and love was a dangerous threat to their whole setup. Hence the Cross.