While checking out the spooky things at a Halloween store, I noticed an aisle of religious garb that included the Jesus costume shown above. I took a photo and brought it to church for our weekly youth group discussion.
First, I showed pictures of other costumes and asked the young people how they would act if they were wearing that outfit. What do you do if you’re wearing a zombie costume? You shuffle and groan. A superhero? You stretch your arms and pretend to fly.
Then I showed them the photo of the Jesus outfit and asked: What about this one? How must you act if you’re wearing a Jesus costume? One young man answered immediately.
“You have to love everybody,” he said.
Sometimes, young people get it better than we do as adults.
It’s fitting that we talk about costumes. Jesus talked about them. He warned us to be wary of wolves who dress in sheep outfits. He said many “religious” people with shiny outward appearances are nasty and decaying inside.
He reminded us to see the person inside the costume. Don’t assess by words or outward appearances. See how someone acts. Pay attention to the values they live. Don’t just assume that because a person is wearing a costume, they’re living what it represents.
Look beyond the clothes
So, what about the Jesus costume? How do we act if we’re wearing that one? Well, I think wearing that costume means …
- We must love everybody. The young person nailed it. Jesus said people will recognize someone as his follower by their love, period. We can’t refuse to love anyone because we consider them a horrible sinner, unlike ourselves. We can’t exclude, judge or cast stones. We must love even the one we consider an enemy. If we’re not doing that, we’re out of costume.
- We must reach out to everybody. We need to wear the costume in public. Jesus went public with his love. He sought those who were deemed unworthy by the self-righteous people, and he loved them in a way that transformed them and reminded them of their great worth. He said his followers should do the same – we can’t be a light hidden under a basket.
- Finally, we must be the kind of person who brings healing everybody. Whenever Jesus sent his followers out to represent him, he told them to heal. Wearing the Jesus costume means healing the broken, the needy, the struggling. It means bringing peace into conflict, hope into despair, and love into every aspect of life. We serve and heal everyone, no exceptions.
Jesus’ attitude was that when we do those things – love, reach out, heal – then we’re fulfilling the job description. We’re fitting the costume.
And if we don’t do those things, people recognize that, too. They see that we’re as phony as the thick, black beard in the costume on the store shelf. They can spot #FakeJesus from far away. Many people have given up on religion that doesn’t speak, live or love like Jesus.
Just love. Period.
Finally, we must constantly remind ourselves that the Jesus costume doesn’t come with accessories. We never wear a crown of any sort. We don’t carry a stone to throw at anybody for any reason.
The Bibles we tote, the crosses we wear, the religious posts we make on social media — none of it matters if we’re not living in character.
Jesus’ spirit of love was woven into everything he did. He wore his love on his sleeve, and so must we. It’s part of the costume.
Just love everybody. Period.