The world’s hatred for Jesus was theological, not sociological
I talk and write often about the concept of likeability because I believe it can have a tremendous impact on our personal and professional lives. The most difficult feedback I receive goes like this: “OK, what you’re saying sounds nice, but should likeability really be our primary objective? Was Jesus likeable?”
This is an important point for me to address because, though I can see how becoming likeable and becoming like Jesus may seem mutually exclusive, I believe the pillars of likeability I mention in my e-book, Likeability: What We Can Learn from Social Media About Becoming Better Humans, are rooted in Scripture and what it teaches. Each of these 10 pillars has played an integral role in my spiritual development.
I got the idea for the 10 pillars of likeability from the time I’ve spent working with and around social media. The more I learned about social media and the more I coached others to be effective on social media, the more I realized that in their use of the things that make a person “likeable” on social media also make him likeable in real life. The pillars include actions such as choosing to like others first (the way God chose to love us before we loved him), discovering what resources people find valuable, and sharing generously whatever we have with them.
When it comes to social media, I encourage individuals to engage in the conversation, to avoid talking about themselves too much, to celebrate and mourn with others, to know their audience, to be interesting people and to keep their messages short and sweet. Honestly, I think these same tenets make us “likeable” in real life; and I believe there are many ways these attitudes and postures overlap with how Jesus ministered. Jesus’ ministry grew and the crowds flocked to Him not because He was self-serving and arrogant but because He was incredibly likeable. He cared for others deeply, was willing to give until it hurt, and never ceased to be interesting and engaging.
Although Jesus wasn’t always liked, I believe He was always likeable. Here’s why: The world’s hatred for Jesus was theological, not sociological.
There is some overlap between the two, of course, but Jesus always made it clear the former was more important. He never fought battles over purely sociological points unless they were important to His theology. Likewise, Paul did not encourage Christians to be social revolutionaries.
Earthly governments were, after all, part of the temporal economy of God (see Rom. 13:1–7). They were a part of the old world that was passing away, and it was not Paul’s intent for the church to disrupt society or overthrow governments. Rather, he encouraged Christians to be good citizens and exemplary members of their families and society as well as to behave in a manner consistent with the teachings of Christ.
What if becoming more likeable by being exemplary members of family and society is the best way to promote the gospel message?
Jesus Responded With Love
Scripture warns Christians they will be hated by the world (see John 15:19), but notice that the same passage warning Christians of certain hatred also commands them to love one another. In this passage, the stark contrast between the love of Christ and the hatred of the world is the same contrast that should be made between Christians and the world.
Even when Jesus was most hated, He never stopped being likeable. He never stopped being generous with everything He had, engaging others in conversation, celebrating and mourning with others, and liking other people, even those who were most awful to Him. When it came time for His life to end, Jesus continued to be generous and gracious, even with those who were killing Him.
When we are hated by the world and wonder how we should respond, we must look to Jesus as our example. Despite being hated, we must continue to be likeable.
Justin Lathrop has a dozen years of local church ministry experience and has spent the last several years starting businesses and ministries that partner with pastors and churches to advance the kingdom. He serves as a consultant in the area of strategic relations, working predominantly with the Assemblies of God.