Oddly Symmetrical Qualities in Jesus

Christus_Ravenna_MosaicA friend pointed out to me, “God has wired us with personalities that are double edge swords, as it were. Each sword has a side to defend and deliver and another that can bring destruction. The key is building on the good and mitigating the weak. I think we underestimate the complexity of our human personalities as well as the personality of Jesus.” It’s true. Our experience of personality traits usually finds that particular strengths also have associated weaknesses. In this sense our personalities are asymmetrical.

But Jesus has a striking symmetry of personality. His gentleness and tenderness toward the woman in Matthew 9—“Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well”—is oddly matched by boldness and severity in Matthew 23, where he excoriates the Pharisees for their religious oppression. Warmth in the one case, force in the other. Perfectly combined in one person.

This calls for reflection on the nature of our personalities. Where we see particular strengths, we must be careful to cultivate Christlikeness in the associated weakness.

It’s also a caution for us to be tethered to Scripture in our thoughts about Jesus. The way we conceive of Jesus will more or less unfold into a blueprint for living. If we think of him as a social revolutionary, or a religious genius, or a wise sage, or merely forgiver of sins, in each case our way of life will reflect our thoughts about him.

So we must not be too narrow in our thoughts of him. He is at least all four of these things (revolutionary, sage, genius, forgiver) but also much more. Our thoughts of him must be always expanding and never contracting.

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