Jesus: Liberal Or Conservative?

Ladies and gentlemen…welcome to the main event.  In the red corner, committed to fighting poverty, slavery, inequality and Imageanimal abuse (but not so much the killing of unborn children), we have Soooooocial Justice.  And in the blue corner, committed to defending Biblical inerrancy, substitutionary atonement, the doctrine of the trinity and absolute truth (but not so much compassionate acts of service) we have Fuuuuuuundamentalist.

Ah yes…the battle rages between those who champion social justice – many would call them(selves) liberals – and those who proudly march under the banner of fundamentalism – many would call them(selves) conservatives.  Each side touts the importance of certain issues, while stereotyping the other side for their perceived lack of care for other important issues (see above).

The irony, of course, is that many on both sides would call themselves genuine Christians.  Followers of Jesus.

Which begs the question:  was Jesus a conservative or a liberal?  Was he a fundamentalist or committed to social justice?  Did he teach and live the values of one position over the other?

Christians on both sides of the spectrum will point to verses that support the “fact” that Jesus was firmly in their camp.  Christians who identify as liberals might quote Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoner and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed…” Conservative Christians could point out Jesus insistence on the importance of obedience, even defining love for him in terms of it (John 14:23) or the fact that he told his followers and those in the crowd that they must do what the Pharisees teach (Matt. 23:3).

Jesus cares more about truth and obedience than the most ardent fundamentalist; at the same time he cares more about grace and mercy than the most compassionate person committed to social justice.

As I’ve read the Bible, cover-to-cover, (because you also need to read the Old Testament to fully understand Jesus…read more about that here), I’ve come to the realization that Jesus seems to fit into both camps…he was both committed to social justice and a fundamentalist…he espoused many of the values that both liberals and conservatives would hold dear.

In fact, I would go one step further.  I would say Jesus cares more about truth and obedience than the most ardent fundamentalist; at the same time he cares more about grace and mercy than the most compassionate person committed to social justice.

Perhaps Jesus’s disciple John said it best:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth….For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ   ~ John 1:14,17

Grace AND truth.  Jesus was full of both.

How easily it is for us to emphasize one over the other.  Conservative Christians accuse their liberal brothers of sacrificing truth upon the alter of grace.  Liberal Christians accuse their conservative brothers of exalting truth at the expense of grace.

Yet grace and truth are not mutually exclusive.  Sure there is a tension that exists between them.  Anyone who has confronted a brother or sister in Christ about sin (Gal. 6:1) knows the difficulty of balancing grace and truth.  It can so easily appear that we care too much for truth and no enough about the person, or vice versa.

As Christians…Jesus-Followers…our call is to walk in His steps.   It’s why the apostle John stresses that we must walk both in truth and in love (2 John).   It’s so easy to stray too far to one side or the other.  Our goal should be to walk in truth and love, modeling our Savior who was full of grace and truth.

So you can try to apply whatever label you want to Jesus….you can claim him for your side if you want, but the bigger question is, “Are you walking in truth and love…are you full of grace and truth?”


For the record….

I’m aware that I’ve stereotyped each side.  I actually do think that it’s possible to be a compassionate conservative or a liberal committed to truth.  Unfortunately, this often isn’t the case.  The point of this blog was to encourage each side to be more like Jesus.




Posted on June 12, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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