an edited version of an article originally posted on my old blog - January 12, 2009
When you’ve grown up in the church and been a “professional” in youth ministry for nearly 8 years, you hear a lot of cliched sayings. ”What Would Jesus Do?”…”Sinner and Saint”…”Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner”…”Personal Lord and Savior”…”God Has a Sense of Humor”…etc.
One of the sayings that has always made me squirm a little is when people say that youth ministers are called to “Be Jesus” to kids. The point is for ministers to bring young people closer to Christ by emulating what Jesus embodied. While I understand the intent, the idea that anyone can truly “Be Jesus” seems disingenuous to me.
All around the world this weekend, the thousands of churches who use the Revised Common Lectionary will hear the story of John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness, preparing the way for Jesus. Many who listened to John believed him to be the Messiah. However, he repeatedly said "I am not".
Neither am I. Neither are you.
The task of being Jesus is too daunting for me. Following Jesus is something I try to do daily; but something I fail at just as often. Jesus was perfect; I am not. I can’t be Jesus, but I can be John — “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness”.
Perhaps, in doing so, we can bring people closer to Christ than if we’re trying to “be Jesus”.