More of Him AND More of Me?
by Mike McKinniss
When in my early twenties, I did as all good Christian young adults do and sacrificed a few summers working at a Christian summer camp. Each year as a staff we would put our heads together and cook up a theme verse we thought might be appropriate as a banner over our ten-week stint.
One year we were rather excited to have landed on John 3:30, wherein John the Baptist reflects on Jesus’ arrival on the Judean scene: “He must become greater; I must become less” (NIV).
We were giving each other high fives over it. “Yeah! This is what it’s all about! More of Jesus; less of us!” We thought we’d really landed on a juicy bit of theology, and we were eager to slap it on the sweatshirts we were soon to commission—because what’s a summer camp experience with apparel to commemorate it?
I’ve since come to think we were mistaken.
First, to give credit where credit is due, John the Baptist was altogether right to express this sentiment when he did. He had been baptizing folks in the murky Jordan, all the while preaching repentance to the house of Israel. He was a prophet—one of the greatest—and yet he knew God had called someone greater just over the horizon.
Thus, when Jesus, Israel’s savior and judge, did appear, John knew it was time to back out of the way. He knew: You can’t have two lead actors at center stage; you can’t wear a white dress to someone else’s wedding; and you can’t take credit for someone else’s joke. “He must become greater; I must become less” is a statement apropos for the moment.
But it does not—I believe should not—apply to us now.
The Gospel of John doesn’t have anything like the Sermon on the Mount, but in Matthew’s gospel, it’s not long after Jesus’ baptism by John that Jesus is perched on a hillside speaking to a hungry crowd. “You are the light of the world,” he told them.
A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Mt 5:14-16, NIV).
You are the light of the world. You are a city on a hill. You are a lamp for all to see.
There’s a thought that’s been nagging at me for some time now. You’ve probably known this since you moved from velcro to laces, but it’s only crept into my consciousness in the last few years: Christians are the only way the rest of the world knows who God is.
However graciously or awfully we behave, that’s how they’ll think God acts. However sweetly or grotesquely we speak, that’s how they’ll believe God talks.
This is one of the myriad reasons Jesus matters so deeply. He is, as the author of Hebrews put it, “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Heb. 1:3, NIV). We best know God’s character and will through the person of Jesus.
But of course, Jesus no longer physically walks among us on this earth. Instead, he has endowed his followers with his Spirit, commissioning them to continue implementing what he had inaugurated. In short, this is what the Great Commission is all about—Jesus has claimed all authority, and he’s delegating it to his Spirit-filled disciples (Mt. 28:18-20).
So what’s wrong with “less of us, more of Jesus”? Well, there’s certainly nothing wrong with more of Jesus. But to say “less of us” counteracts the very plan that the Lord put in place. More of us filled with the Spirit of Christ means more of Jesus.
Perhaps you’ve noticed: the world can be a pretty dark place, with dangers at every bend. Never has there been a greater need for women and men, filled with God’s Spirit, to stand and to shine, not in manner that simply draws attention to ourselves for our own sake, or to somehow “take over the culture” (as if that’s what Jesus was attempting to do). Rather, it’s critical that we take on our full stature with the light, heart and manner of Jesus, pointing, all the while, to the one who is reconciling the entire world to the loving Father that made it.