Recently a friend and I were discussing some of the hot-button issues in our country today. We mentioned such things as gay marriage, abortion, healthcare, and income inequality, to name a few.
We all have our opinions on such things, of course. As believers, our opinions hopefully have been shaped by God’s principles and wisdom found in the Scriptures. In a world filled with moral relativism, we desperately need the Word of God as a plumb line to reveals our off-kilter values and behaviors (Amos 7:7-8).
But while discussing these things with my friend, I saw that being right on the issues is only half the battle. If are beliefs are right, but our attitudes are wrong, no one will be impacted in a positive way. Instead of having a platform to transform our society, we will either be ignored or ridiculed—and we’ll have only ourselves to blame.
So, while some people are too timid to address the hot-button issues at all, others undercut their message because of a calloused, unloving attitude toward their audience. They may be “speaking the truth,” but they are failing to do so in love (Ephesians 4:15).
No wonder we’ve lost our audience and become largely irrelevant in the debates over the pressing social issues of our day. How sad.
As I’ve pondered this unfortunate state of affairs, I’ve concluded that two problems must be remedied. First, our message must regain its clarity. The apostle Paul warned, “If the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:8)
Where are the pulpits and publications today that are trumpeting a clear message from God instead of just spiritual mumbo jumbo? Too often, we sound more like politicians than preachers, coming down on each side of every issue. No one will be moved to action by that kind of indistinct trumpet sound.
But as important as it is for our message to regain laser-like clarity, the other problem is perhaps even more urgent: We must speak our message with “the face of Jesus.” This gets back to the “attitude” and spirit in which our message is delivered. Correct words become hollow and impotent unless spoken with a correct heart (1 Corinthians 13:1).
Perhaps you’ve never given it much thought, but this is a crucial issue. If the body of Christ is supposed to express Jesus’ “face” to today’s world, what expression should that be? Anger? Accommodation? Confrontation? Smugness? Disinterest?
I’ve concluded there are actually four “faces of Jesus” presented in Scripture, and these provide us with a helpful glimpse of what our posture should be as we interact with our society. We see these four faces reflected in the description of the “four living creatures” in Ezekiel 1:10 (and mentioned again in Revelation 4:7):
As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle.
If you grew up in a church with stained-glass windows, you probably have seen these four faces depicted. And as Bible commentators have frequently pointed out, the four Gospels each emphasize one of these four characteristics of Jesus’ personality and ministry:
LION: Matthew quotes the most Old Testament prophesies about Jesus, presenting Him as the King and the “lion of the tribe Judah.” (regaining our “roar” and seeing a mandate to “reign in life”)
OX: Mark focuses on Jesus as the suffering Servant, coming to obey the Father’s will and serve humanity by laying down His life.
MAN: Luke, as a medical doctor, emphasizes Jesus’ humanity and His concern for those who were hurting.
EAGLE: John presented an “eagle’s eye view” of Jesus’ life and ministry, revealing Him as the living Word of God who existed from eternity.
As Christians living in the 21st century, we are called upon to approach our world with each of these four aspects of Jesus’ nature:
- As LIONS, we need to regain our “roar.” While we’re called to be kings of the jungle—ruling and reigning with Christ (Romans 5:17)—we’ve allowed ourselves to become tame and housebroken. Instead of being conquerors and victors, striking terror in evildoers, we’ve become more like kittens, a threat to no one.
- As OXEN, we must approach our society with the heart of servants. Rather than being known for our angry denunciation of our nation’s shortcomings, we need to offer our love, prayers, and service to make things better.
- As MEN and WOMEN, we must model the humanity and compassion of Jesus for those in need. This means weeping over our city and our nation, even as we call them to repentance (Luke 13:34-35).
- As EAGLES, we must strive to see the big picture and view our world from God’s heavenly perspective. The Lord is calling us to come to a higher place of revelation and wisdom than we’ve had before: “Come up here, and I will show you things…” He is saying again today (Revelation 4:1-2). And in order to have the maximum impact, the church needs “sons of Issachar”—people with prophetic insight, who understand the times and know what God’s people should do (1 Chronicles 12:32).
Jesus said that anyone who saw Him would know what the Father looked like (John 14:9). In the same way, a watching world should be able to know what Jesus looks like by observing the lives of His followers.
The world desperately needs to see Jesus again. But that will only happen if we once again model the face of a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle. It’s time to roar, serve, weep…and SOAR!