My wife leads children’s church at our fellowship. Last Sunday, she did a craft with the kids that portrayed Jesus walking on water. My six year old son colored Jesus purple. A girl in the class scolded him and said God would be mad because he colored Jesus wrong. My wife gently suggested that God looks at the heart. Our son wasn’t coloring Jesus purple to mock God; He wouldn’t be mad. The other kid replied, “Well I’m going to color my Jesus as accurately as possible.” My wife assured her this was fine for her to do.
After church, my wife relayed this story to me, and we had a good laugh–especially about how accurately the girl was going to color Jesus. First of all, “Jesus” was a cartoon sketch with Bee-Gees hair (see photo above). My wife and I agreed “Jesus” probably played bass in a ’70’s rock band. Second (as I asked somewhat sarcastically), did “Jesus” look middle eastern? Did the girl at least use a tan crayon for his skin tone? No, it seems she didn’t.
Droll as this story is, it got me thinking about theologies and how seriously we take them. Don’t misunderstand: We should take theology seriously. God has revealed Himself in Christ and we should portray that revelation as accurately as we can. At the same time, we must keep Jesus Himself–the real, actual Jesus–in mind. However accurate our theology, isn’t it a paper, Crayola Jesus after all?
Cartoonish or not, Crayola-Jesus is deadly serious to us. In the darker moments of church history, we’ve tortured or gone to war with those who didn’t color Jesus as accurately as we. Clearly, this takes theological craft too far.
So what role does theology play? Theology is a guide. It provides lines to stay in as our own experiences color Jesus. To the extent it helps us know God, love God, and love others, theology is useful.
In the end, Truth is a Person, not a set of beliefs, positions, or axioms. Truth is not something we possess but Someone who possesses us. However artful or eloquent we are, a person can’t be captured on paper. (Even if we have the Crayola 120-pack!) One person, though, can be seen in another person of the same family (Heb. 2:11). This is the real test of theology: not that we can expound, sculpt, or draw the likeness of Jesus. But do *we* look like Jesus?