I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I do tune in to NFL and college football. One series of commercials that has caught my attention this year is an ad campaign called He Gets Us.
These ads are well-produced, edgy treatments of various topics all pointing out how much Jesus “gets us.” The tag line on the website reads, “Jesus gets our lives, because he was human too.”
Any time a significant campaign that features our Lord and Savior launches into the general culture, I’m going to take notice. And because the ads don’t have a lot in the way of content – just some simple ideas – it beckons me to check it out and examine further what is being said about Jesus.
I went to their website and navigated to the “About Us” section. It begins with this statement: “He Gets Us is a movement to reintroduce people to the Jesus of the Bible and his confounding love and forgiveness. We believe his words, example, and life have relevance in our lives today and offer hope for a better future.”
They speak of themselves as a “diverse group of people passionate about the authentic Jesus of the Bible.” They want everyone to “understand the authentic Jesus as he’s depicted in the Bible – the Jesus of radical forgiveness, compassion, and love.” They claim to be neither “left” nor “right” and not affiliated with any particular church or denomination.
They speak of their desire to create a safe place to ask questions. They commend Jesus’ openness to people who have typically been excluded. They affirm that, just like you, Jesus didn’t like it when religious people were hypocritical or judgmental. “We’re simply inviting you to explore with us at He Gets Us how might things be different if more people followed his example.”
Terms like “confounding love,” “radical compassion,” “radical forgiveness,” “authentic Jesus of the Bible” are all words that sound good, but can be rather empty by themselves. So, who do they identify Jesus to be?
I searched for some sense of a doctrinal statement. The closest they came to identifying some kind of theological basis was in a couple of statement in the “About Us” section. “We’re led by Jesus fans and followers. People who believe he was much more than just a good guy and a profound teacher. And that Jesus is the son of God, who came to Earth, died, and was resurrected, then returned to heaven and is alive today.”
OK. Not bad, but also not distinctive. There are many false groups who would affirm Jesus as the “son of God” and yet deny his unique, co-eternal deity with the Father and the Holy Spirit. (I find it interesting that “son” was not capitalized; is that significant?)
So, we read a little further, “Ultimately, we want people to know his teachings and how he lived while here on Earth. And this will be a starting point to understand him and his message. Though we believe he was what Christians call fully God and fully man, that may not be what you believe. We’re simply inviting you to explore…”
That’s a little clearer. Invoking the credal verbiage of “fully God and fully man,” we come closer to the historic, orthodox faith. But that’s the extent of any doctrinal affirmation. There’s not a declaration of why Jesus died, was resurrected, and returned to heaven.
The ads on TV give us glimpses of Jesus’ experience on earth – “Jesus was a refugee.” “Jesus disagreed with loved ones. But he didn’t disown them.” “Jesus was born to a teen mom.” “Jesus had to control his outrage, too” (in reference to injustice). These commercials are well-produced, with modern, urban settings to highlight that “he gets us. All of us.”
Topics on the website are identified with hashtags such as #activist, #hope, #inclusive, #judgment, #justice, #reallife, #refugee, #relationships, #struggle. It is quite clear from multiple places and expressions on the website that this organization is seeking a broad inclusivity of those who have been marginalized. The articles cite numerous Scripture references and to my knowledge don’t convey any gross misteaching.
So, what does this “movement” seek for us to do? In the section titled “Take Action,” there are three main appeals. “Read About Jesus” links to (3) seven-day reading plans from Bible.com (YouVersion). “Connect” allows you to submit contact information for someone local to contact you, or you can connect with a group. Finally, you can “Text for prayer or positivity” to have a volunteer pray for you or send some words of encouragement.
Finally, you can “rep the movement” by purchasing gear (hats, shirts, stickers). But, you don’t pay with money; the products are “free.” You just “pay with love.” Then you can share on Instagram or Twitter how you paid for it, presumably to spread the example of Jesus.
What are we to make of this?
I often have a natural skepticism and healthy cynicism when it comes to presentations about Jesus that reach pop culture status. But I don’t want to dismiss out of hand. I want to delve into a group’s purpose and goals in the hope that there might be something true and real. Like Paul, I want to be able to say, “Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” (Phil. 1:18). And while the people at HGU might do it differently than I would, I must also ask of myself, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?” (Rom. 14:4). None of this is to say that false teaching is OK or that we shouldn’t call out false teachers.
But what can I say about my impressions of He Gets Us?
There might be some real discovery of Jesus Christ. Or maybe not.
The statements on the website, as far as they go, are orthodox. But they don’t go very far. This opens the door for error to enter.
It seems one of the over-arching purposes of this movement is to open dialog with people about who Jesus is. This is a good thing. For example, in the “Connect” section I mentioned earlier, you can get connected with a discussion group. This takes you to an organization known as Alpha. This organization trains groups and ministries in “creating spaces for honest, open, and judgment-free conversations for anyone to explore the Christian faith.” As a non-aversive attempt to engage people, this is to be applauded. Francis Schaeffer once wrote of our obligation to provide “honest answers to honest questions” (Two Contents, Two Realities). Christians by and large would do better to listen and ask questions more and to preach less, at least at the outset of conversation.
My church has run a number of Alpha groups. It’s been a great tool for engaging the non-churched. Hopefully, visitors to the site will take that step and connect with a solid group and encounter Jesus Christ through the Word of God and the proclamation of the gospel.
But for someone who doesn’t connect with a group like this, I fear that He Gets Us may give a false sense of assurance. Something along the lines of, “Yeah, he gets us. He gets me. He gets me and my messed up life. He’s on my side; I’m good with Jesus.” But people need to hear the gospel. The message of the gospel – the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus proclaimed with its meaning and purpose – is missing from the He Gets Us website. To be sure, there’s the mention of his death and resurrection, but as I said, no declaration of why Christ died (“for our sins” – 1 Cor. 15:3). Without such a declaration, I fear that a false confidence may result.
I perused the 21 Scripture readings and their devotionals. In not one place do they expound on the true purpose for Christ’s coming to earth. The thrust seems to be more toward being like Jesus. In the end, what the He Gets Us people say about themselves is telling: “We’re simply inviting you to explore with us at He Gets Us how might things be different if more people followed his example.”
This is not a gospel statement. Following the example of Jesus might have some temporal benefits, but at its heart, this is moralism. This is “Jesus came to show us a better way to live, and we should follow his pattern.” But it’s not the gospel.
The gospel is not what you should do; it’s what Jesus has done. “For our sake he [God the Father] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
Let me be blunt. The gospel is inclusive. It is for everybody.
But the gospel is also equally exclusive. It is not for those who only follow Jesus’ example. It is not for those who promote their self-righteousness. It is not for those who will not recognize their sin against God. It is not for those who do not repent of their sin and place their faith in Christ. It is not for those who don’t recognize the exclusiveness of Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).
So let good conversations take place. “Hey, can I share with you more about Jesus?”
2 responses to “What are we to make of He Gets Us?”
Super! Love your passion for the gospel.
Going to copy it for my upcoming seminary in prison class. Where should they send royalties?
Thanks John. Let’s get together soon and you can buy me a soda.