I won’t lose sleep over “He Gets Us.” I hope a multitude of people hear the ad and follow the gospel breadcrumbs all the way to the Lamb’s table. But there are reasons to not do stuff like this, too. And in a cultural context like ours, there are levels of discipleship and spiritual formation that might come harder for those whose first encounter with Jesus was based on a roundabout self-actualization.
If you’ve watched any televised football over the past 6 months, there’s a good chance you’ve seen one of these ads. It would be tiresome to “dissect” any one of these. The premise of all of them is the same: Jesus is more like us than unlike us, despite the church-ified picture you may have gotten of him. Of course, it’s one thing to piously say this. It’s another thing to show a picture of a tattooed Hell’s Angel, or a refugee family, or homeless people on the screen, and narrate how Jesus lived this kind of life too. It’s effective in its element of surprise. The average American probably thinks of Jesus as either a ghost or a priest, not the downtrodden or outcast a few doors down. The phrase “He gets us” summarizes an entire evangelistic invitation. You can trust Jesus. He won’t judge where you come from, cause you and him come from the same kind of place.
There’s nothing aggressively wrong with the ads. They’re not overtly theological in nature; they’re too short to really confuse anybody; and all in all, their premise is true. Jesus “knows what is in man” (John 2:24) and he is sympathetic to the struggles and sins of his people (Heb. 4:14). Further, the idea that Jesus has more in common with a person we’d rather not look at than one we would is entirely biblical (Is. 53:2). The ads can be a bit glib, overstating the continuity between, for example, Jesus’ indictment of the unbelief and hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and a leather-wearing counterculture. But that’s a distinctly American Christian mistake to make, and in the end, they do reflect a reverence and affection for Jesus.
But I get why some people are uncomfortable with them. Personally, I could do without a mass media campaign like this. I think the bottom line is that these ads are inoffensive, but that’s mostly because they’re forgettable. They don’t do anything more than put the name “Jesus” into living rooms. What’s more, they seem to establish Jesus’ goodness as a measure of how “seen” by him we feel.
Scripturally, you can’t divide Jesus’ sympathy for us from our plight as sinners. He “gets us” not because we ourselves are close to what he’s like, but because we are far away. That Jesus gets us is a profound act of mercy, not coolness.