19 Sep 2006

Community of the Kingdom – The "Look" of Jesus

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Church, Grace, Jesus, Kingdom, Ministry, Mission, Personal, Unity
Joy, Love, Grace ... the Gift of the Real Jesus

Joy, Love, Grace … the Gift of the Real Jesus

The Look of Jesus: Community of the Kingdom’s Mug Shot

Have you ever wondered what a Christian looks like? Recently this question was posed to me. It caught me off guard so I responded with a few superficial answers. Yet I was dissatisfied with my responses so I turned to the Scripture to help in determine what a  Christian looks like.

The proper place to begin, is to find out what the Savior looked like. As I read through the Gospels seeking an answer to my question I began to notice a certain look over and over again. At the center of the Gospels is the remarkable compassionate love of Jesus. It is in plain view, yet we sometimes do miss it.

I read John’s reflections on Christ’s mission as being about saving, not condemnation (John 3.17). The Master’s compassion for one caught in the very act of a capital “crime” is almost shocking (John 8). I noticed Jesus using the image of the Good Shepherd who gives himself in service to others (John 10.10-11). Luke told me that Jesus explained his whole purpose for living included the goals of freedom, healing and releasing the oppressed (Luke 4.18-19).

My journey through the Gospels revealed the Master gripped with compassion as he saw people as helpless sheep without a shepherd (Matt. 9.36). His heart ached when he saw the sick (Matt. 14.14) and he literally broke down at the death of a friend (John 11.35). His love was aroused for two blind men outside the ancient city of Jericho (Matt. 20.34). The masses of men, women and children hungry moved him deeply (Matt. 15.32). When a lady experienced the tragedy of death in her family, we read that Jesus’ “heart went out to her.” I noticed that Jesus was even willing to risk the censure of the church folks in order to “do good” (Luke 6.6-11).

As I continued to read through the Gospels wondering “what does a Christian look like” I came across these words from the Messiah’s lips “love one another as I have loved you. By THIS everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13.34-35). I dawned on me that the “look” or “mark” of a Christian was none other than the “look” or “mark” of Jesus himself. What Jesus looked like was compassion pure and simple. Compassionate love! That is the answer to my question. Christians, real Christians, will have the look of Jesus. Jesus said that his look, the look of love, will be the mark of all Christians.

The community of the kingdom of God is filled with little Christ’s filled with and moved by compassionate love. Herein is heart of the Christian … and the Church.

Bobby Valentine

23 Responses to “Community of the Kingdom – The "Look" of Jesus”

  1. Candle (C & L) Says:

    Bobby- Good stuff. I remember being impressed by a book by Francis Schaffer called the “Mark
    of the Christian”

    You may be familiar with this but if not Google

    Francis Schaffer Mark of Christian

    Anyhow — he makes that point –“Love” is THE defining mark of the Christian —

    I have preached and taught this lesson a number of times but I have consistently failed to live it.

    Thank God for his grace (and for ocassionally giving me the humility to recognize that if I can’t live the greatest command why should I be so dogmatic and insist that others completely obey “lesser commands” (especially when I may not even understand what God intended by those things I see clearly as commands!!!)

    God Bless

  2. Velcro Says:

    Good post. One of my prayers every morning is that God help me to love other people. It’s a big weakness of mine.

  3. MommyHAM Says:

    I hear what you’re saying, and agree, with one distinction: the answer one gets with What does a Christian look like isn’t always in line with What should a Christian look like. (I believe the answer to the latter is exactly what your post talks about).

    I think you touched on that with, That is the answer to my question. Christians, real Christians, will have the look of Jesus, but I just wanted to put it out there.

    So many times “Christians” don’t look like they should and yet because they wear the label and packaging, many are put off by the disconnect with what our Bible professes.

    It’s hard trying to reconcile our humanity with the great command to Love Like Christ.

  4. Ben Overby Says:


    I agree that to look like Jesus is to be marked by love. But I wonder if you haven’t gone too far, or perhaps found what you were “looking” for when you distill, not the multiple rays of love obvious in the narratives, but a single beam, namely compassionate love.

    Compassion is only one expression of love, and hence, only one attribute of Christ’s love for us. Love for others is born out of love for God, and love for God (and Christ) is marked out by obedience (whoever has my commandments and keeps them it is he who loves me . . . if anyone loves me he will keep my word). Jesus’ compassion for man is no more exalted than His obedience to the Father, nor is Jesus’ appeal for submission to the Father less a part of the narratives than the depictions of His willingness to touch lepers, etc. Peter, James, John, and Paul, were early Christ followers, early little “Christs,” and they were marked by a rich, multi-flavored love that manifested itself in submission to the Lord as King as well as compassion, or better yet, submission to the Lord as King which worked its way out into the community in feeding widows and as explicit truth appeals to bow the knee, unclench the fists, and pledge solidarity with the King. We can sum this up in Jesus in a handful of his final words, “Not my will, but Yours be done,” and “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” There’s more to be said about love than just obedience and compassion; the real energy of the cosmos can certainly be parsed out into more than two categories, but if love is the defining mark of Jesus, then, as you rightly point out, it will be the mark of us all, and it will look like His love, robust and far more complex than any single quality.

  5. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Ben thank you for your thoughtful comments. I do not see in my blog however any kind of tension between love as compassion and love as obedience. Being compassionate is in fact being obedient. Jesus’ compassion is the result, or better the expression, of his obedient self-condescension on our behalf.

    Thus any community that claims to be of the kingdom will be supremely a place of compassion. There is no greater obedience than love.

    Bobby Valentine

  6. L.E.Meredith Says:

    Great insight, you just can’t be Christian without Christ.

  7. john alan turner Says:

    I think if you look in the context you’ll find that whenever Jesus talks about love manifesting itself as obedience he’s just talked about the need to love others around us. In fact, he sums it up by saying, “A new command I give you: Love one another as I have loved you.”

    In other words, Jesus seems to say over and over that if we love him we’ll obey his command to love others. That’s the obedience he’s talking about.

    Even James’ argument about faith manifesting itself in deeds is set in the context of how we treat others.

    It all seems to come back to (1) love God; (2) love others.

  8. Ben Overby Says:

    John Allen, thanks. Note that I agree with Bobby that we are to love others, but that my point was that love manifests itself in any number of ways, including compassion (see Bobby) and obedience (my note). Those who look like Christ have the look of more than supreme compassion, they also have the look of man in the garden, late at night, sweating drops of blood, as He struggles with doing the Fathers will. That Jesus is evident in the narratives as the leper-touching Jesus. But, of course, it’s all–as I noted in the earlier post–love.

    To love others, we must love Him, as per your reference to John 14. Loving Jesus is, therefore, more foundational than loving others, because (a) we can’t love others until (b) we love our self appropriately, which is (c) impossible unless we love Christ fully. It’s out of that dynamic that we find the grace to serve others; we see the same thing in Jesus. He loved the Father, and out of that relationship found the power to love us. Therefore, if we want to slide the qualities up and down the scale until we get them in the right order, I believe we’ll see compassion is a second order manifestation, splendid and holy, but not more primary than love (not compassion) for God. A church can be supremely compassionate about the pain around them; Habitat for Humanity can, in fact, manifest wonderful expressions of Christ-like compassion, but the glory of Jesus’ compassion is that we know it was based on a commitment to glorifying the Father on earth (the work He came to do, Jn 17). When glorifying God becomes our chief aim, compassion and all the rest will follow, but we can have the latter without the former, and when we do we only promote a shallow pseudo-Christianity.

  9. Danny Says:

    Good post Bobby.

    I am reminded of the old Theophilus cartoons (I dunno if anyone else even knows about these things) in which a boy asked his dad what a Christian looked like.

    The dad replied by saying a Christian would be honest, caring, kind, compassionate,loving etc.

    The son responds by asking, “Have I ever seen one?”

    I think others are asking that question too.

  10. Ben Overby Says:


    The tension arises from the fact that Jesus taught us to love our neighbor, not simply to have compassion on him. As noted, obedience and compassion are both expressions of love, but obedience without compassion isn’t obedience, and compassion without obedience isn’t Christian. Back to your original blog, what did Jesus look like? He looked like love. What does love look like? More, much more, than compassion. Some will argue tooth and nail that the discipline of Mt. 18 or 1 Co. 5 isn’t compassionate, and that, therefore, we ought not judge, and all the rest. Because they look at Jesus and see compassion as supreme, they allow compassion to have a qualifying effect on other clear truths, reshaping Jesus into a more politically correct, non-threatening image, while pulling the lid shut on their candlestick. When I look at Jesus I see love in its wonder and paradoxes, a love that can hang on the cross for our sins on the one hand, and a love that can threaten to vomit lukewarm churches out on the other. If He looks like all of that, then what should we look like?

  11. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Ben I truly do love and respect you but I demure from your analysis of compassionate love. Jesus is truly threatening in all of his compassion whether to the secularist or the religionist.

    The basic identity of the commmunity of God is tied up in compassion. Compassion is the nexus of doctrine and ethics. Thus Milan Kundera has written that compassion is the “heaviest virtue.” But why? For three reasons I suspect:

    1) Biblical compassion begins with understanding.
    To feel another’s pain or suffering we must know of the burden that is pressing. We must listen long and hard. Thielecke wrote “Tell me how much you know of the sufferings of your fellowman and I will tell you how much you love them.”

    2) Biblical compassion brings not simply understanding but willingness to bear that burden as one’s own. In the Greek at least two words indicate that compassion involves such an engagment or ownership of the burden that anger can be produced at the situation. John 11.33,38 are one example. As Jesus is “deeply moved” he is literally snorting mad at the situation that has befallen his friends. Our whole being is drawn into the “burden.”

    3) Biblical compassion finds its goal in our identification with the suffering. This is the basic principle of Jesus’ own incarnation.

    I cannot imagine this kind of compassion being non-threatening. It threatens the church and it threatens the world.

    Blessings my brother.

    Bobby Valentine

  12. Josh Stump Says:

    Bobby, good points to ponder as always. For some reason, it made me think of the Adam’s Family movie when Wednesday, dressed as she always is, was asked what she was going as for Halloween. She replied, “I’m going dressed as a homicidal maniack, they look just like everyone else.”

    In addition to being a pretty funny line, it also made me think that this is too often the case for Christians. What does a modern American Christian look like? Everyone else. What should they look like? Now there’s a different question. I’m not trying to be negative. Many Christians stand out with the light of Christ, but so often the pressures of society to conform to it outweigh our strength to be radical in our love.

    So, my point is just that Christians should be nothing like homicidal maniacs. I hope that helps.

  13. cwinwc Says:

    With the mindset of being Jesus to each other within the church as well as to the world, our history would have far less “friendly fire casualties.”

  14. Falantedios Says:


    Are you suggesting that AGAPE and SPANCHIZOMAI are synonymous? Because it seems to me that compassion is an expression of agape-love. Is the fury of Jesus driving the moneychangers with a whip ‘compassionate’? Is Matthew 23 compassionate to all?

    Maybe our 2006 definition of compassion needs to be shaped by Jesus’ example, rather than the more common practice of taking what the world defines as compassion (or authority, but that’s a whole different discussion) and saying that Jesus does (and the Bible teaches) THAT.

    just some thoughts…

  15. Ancient Wanderer Says:

    Compassionate love!

    Does “Compassionate love!” mean “Compassionate love!” only?
    Does “Compassionate love!” mean that looking like Jesus includes “Compassionate love!”?

    Certainly Jesus showed compassion. How could He not…He’s God. But:
    All that Jesus did was summed up not in individual actions but in a compilation of all that He did in order to complete His mission. John 17.4 “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”

    Jesus “looked like Jesus” because of His nature. We are to become as much like that nature in Christ as possible…what does that entail? Everything and no one thing.

    John knew what Jesus “looked like” before any single or compiled “acts of compassion” were completed…because John knew WHO Jesus was-
    John 1.29b “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

    We have (it seems to me) tried to find a single neat little definition that is both at once attainable and also too nebulous to ever attain. Esoteric Christianity is nice but it’s too cheap to honor the Cross. It’s also easier to achieve and avoid (just saying not accusing).

    For example: Luke 4.18-19 is this a mission to end poverty, slavery, and injustice? Or, a mission to open the eyes of the self-righteous, bring salvation to those captive to sin, and hope to those contending with God?

    I’ve said this before: If it is the former then Jesus failed because when He ascended there was poverty, slavery and injustice still rampant in the world. But if it was the latter…then Jesus accomplished His mission.

  16. preacherman Says:

    Excellent thoughts as always.
    I heard a story that when Mother Teresa won the nobel prize she was asked about why served the sick and dying in Calcutta. She responded with,”I don’t serve the sick and dying in Calcutta, I serve Christ and it is His face I see on the sick and dying in Calcutta.” Oh, for more love and compassion to those around us especially those in the Kingdom. Do we see? Do we really see Christ in our fellow brothers and sister? If we did would it change our view of the kingdom? Thank you Bobby for your insights about the Kingdom.

  17. Ben Overby Says:

    Bobby, we share the same kingdom agenda, therefore I want to be careful not to quibble over words. I want to press this issue only a bit further, with the prayer that it is somehow helpful as we think about who we are in the kingdom of God. I invite C.S. Lewis to say something about our responsibility to others, pulling from his profound piece on the Weight of Glory, where he concluded his remarks this way: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ ‘vere latitat’—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.”

    Lewis sounds an overt warning in the midst of other profundities when he declares, “And our charity must be a real costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner–no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love . . ..”

    The church at Corinth was guilty of presenting only a parody of love; they tolerated sin (1 Co. 5) as if their neighbor wasn’t one of the holiest objects presented to their senses. They didn’t share the weight of the others glory, and their refusal to help the other get to a place of glory could have easily been passed off as “compassion.” That is, it would look dreadfully unloving to refuse fellowship with a brother who was having sex with someone he was deeply in love with (though not married to her), or an idolater, a reviler, a drunk, or a swindler (see vs. 11). How many times have we heard it argued that Jesus came to save sinners, not judge (yet Paul explicitly states that we are to judge!, vs. 12), and therefore we are told that those who are full of compassion will not shun or judge or withdraw from the table of fellowship, fearing that we’ll send signals to the world that we aren’t loving? And ours is a culture, even a church culture, that tends toward “tolerance and indulgence which parody love,” a parody that is often cloaked in the language of compassion. It’s a form or compassion that isn’t qualified by justice (another weighty matter of the law). Love, however, is both just and compassionate. It cares for the persons highest good, and to know what is good is to know something of justice. So, when I see Jesus, I see love, not one shade of love, but a colorful array, love in all it’s glory, a love so dangerous (because it was as just as it was merciful) that it got Him nailed to the cross; my great fear is that we’ve only accepted a parody of His love, one which only seems to make us more or less palatable to a world that is in desperate need of so much more.

  18. Royce Ogle Says:


    I am amazed at how something so simple can be so confused my some of our brothers.

    Of course, your conclusion is exactly on target. We who are saved bear the marks of Christ. Love unless expressed in compassion is not realy love. Even when Jesus acted and spoke harshly is anyone suggesting that Jesus stopped loving those who were the objects or his indignation? I hope not, that would be a serious error in judgment.

    Grace and Peace,
    Royce Ogle

  19. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Ok, brothers this is not as difficult as you are making it. We have not defined compassionate love like Barney.

    Ben I have no quarrel with Lewis on costly love. I believe I have already said something quite like that using different terms. Simply because the world turns compassionate love into some syrupy concept does not mean I will back away from it. Compassionate love cost Jesus his life and it just might us too.

    The heart of God is love. Exodus 34 places “hesed” at the center of the divine being. First John does as well. Hosea lives out what that love means … the world flees from that kind of love and to often so does the church.

    Scripture repeatedly tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God and neighbor. John and James claim that loving God can only be seen in love for neighbor.
    Thus if love is the heart of God, and it is the greatest of all commmandments should it surprise us that love is also the “mark” of Jesus in the church?

    Don Luke 4 is the mission statement of Jesus according to Luke. It does refer to literal poverty just as the “Beattitudes” in Luke refer to real hunger and real poverty. Jesus is the embodiment of the Jubilee of God the vangaurd of the Kingdom. Luke tells the entire story of Jesus against that backdrop. Hunger and poverty are things that are enemies of God and alien to God’s good creation and salvation includes the defeat of these principalities and powers.

    Jesus did not fail. The church continues (supposedly) the mission of Jesus which is advancing the Kingdom of God. The consumation of that goal will be at the eschaton.

    Bobby Valentine

  20. Ben Overby Says:

    Bobby, alas we agree! : ) Of course, we usually do anyway. In your original blog you wrote that you saw Jesus as “compassion pure and simple,” citing several passages as evidence. I only suggested that you broaden that to more than compassionate love, seeing just love, or in a word “love” in all its colors. John told God is love. He didn’t narrow that definition to one particular quality of love. But again, it seems we agree in that your last note stated, “Thus if love is the heart of God, and it is the greatest of all commmandments should it surprise us that love is also the “mark” of Jesus in the church?”

    No it shouldn’t surprise us! But of course that wasn’t the argument. No one disagrees that Jesus is love. It’s the qualifier you added when you looked at the text and saw only compassionate love, or compassionate love as supreme quality.

  21. Christopher Gallagher (aka - Gallagher) Says:

    Is a Christian known by his looks or his reverant character for God?

  22. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Chris I am sure that you have read through the post and noticed that the term “looks” does not refer to physical features. Thanks for coming by, I hope to see you again.

    Bobby Valentine

  23. Falantedios Says:


    I just this moment found your comment on Fumbling. I’m sorry I haven’t responded earlier. I will really miss everyone I met last year. I still feel like the Upper Midwest is somewhere Carly and I could really thrive in the Lord’s work, and I really wanted to get to know everyone better. I thought this year would be especially cool because I wouldn’t be such a newbie.

    But, in good news, during my vacation time that I had reserved for FallHall Glen, I will be undergoing a guided spiritual formation period under a dear friend of ours here in the blogosphere. So if nothing else, I’ll finally have some more fodder for Fumbling!

    Seriously, though, I pray that all is well with you and Pamella and the girls, and I will miss drinking coffee, eating pie, and devouring God’s Word together this year.

    in HIS love,

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