- Adam Butler
He Gets Us, But Do We Get Him?
There are 3 types of viewers when it comes to the Super Bowl: those who are genuinely interested in the football game, those who only watch for the commercials, and those who don’t care either way, but go to Super Bowl parties to enjoy the wings and pizza. Regardless, it is no question that a particular set of commercials made headlines before and during the 2023 Super Bowl. The “He Gets Us” ads made headway for getting Super Bowl coverage; the reason is that they are focused on the person of Jesus.
The ad campaign was created with the intent of reaching one of the largest viewing audiences in the nation, and exposing them to religious truths about Jesus. The creators are well-intentioned, citing facts such as the drop in Evangelical involvement in gospel outreach and even claims of Christianity. However, the ads themselves, and perhaps the motivation behind them, may be lacking a bit theologically.
Chris Broussard, one of the creators of the campaign, described the intention of the ads as a way of “re-branding Jesus Christ in America”. The ads contain phrases such as "Jesus was wrongly judged," and "Jesus was fed up with politics too." But, does Jesus need re-branding? Are Jesus and the Gospel not sufficient for salvation?
In the creators’ defense, they were attempting to assuage the misconceptions about Evangelicalism in America, which is understandable. Many have poorly portrayed Jesus, though this should not come as a surprise. Jesus himself, among others in Scripture, warn us of false teachers, wolves, and heretics who will taint the Gospel, spread lies, and ultimately do harm in the name of Christ. The issue, however, is the result these ad creators ended up with.
In an attempt to make Jesus more “tolerable”, they end up promoting a culturally relevant Jesus who lacks much of the traits which the Jesus of Scripture portrayed. This is not to say that it is not true that Jesus “gets us.” He was, in fact, 100% human. This, after all, is one of the vital doctrines of Christianity: the incarnation of Christ. However, the issue is not whether or not Jesus gets us; it is whether or not we get Him.
It is not only important that we get Christ right; it is imperative. The God of the Bible is, by definition, unchanging. Regardless of culture or time period, Jesus does not change, and neither should our proclamations concerning the truth about him. Neither the Apostles, nor the early church fathers, nor the Reformers compromised on the truths of Jesus. They preached Christ crucified: the Christ who was crucified according to the one true Gospel, about which Paul warned if anyone were to preach another Gospel, let them be damned (Galatians 1:8).
The culturally relevant Jesus attempts to be more attractive to the “marginalized people groups” of our day. This way of identifying with supposed social injustices is an attempt to make Jesus fit cultural narratives. But Christians should not conform to culture; we should reform it.
The message of He Gets Us lacks, however, a clear depiction of the divinity of Jesus. While Jesus was 100% man, he was also 100% God. These two traits are inseparable. To elevate one over the other is to distort the Biblical doctrine of Christ’s manifestation. With this comes the inability to compromise on doctrinal truths. Jesus brought with him hard teaching and absolute truth. The teachings of Christ were even hard enough so that many of his followers walked away from him for this sheer reason (Luke 6:60-70). In fact, it was essentially the very claim that Jesus was and is God that drove many of his disciples away, and led to his crucifixion (Matthew 26:25).
Centering a campaign regarding Jesus around "us" makes us the focus of the Gospel message. While we certainly benefit from the grace and mercy of the Gospel of Christ, we are not the subjects of the Gospel. The Gospel, and the Bible as a whole, is not about me. It is about Jesus. The Gospel is for God's glory. As David says in Psalm 23, the very reason God leads us in paths of righteousness is for His name's sake. So, to make Jesus all about us is to feed the narrative of self-ism that is increasingly prevalent within our post-modern culture.
It's not about us. We should be conforming to the image of Christ, not trying to get Christ to conform to our image.
So, how should we respond to the He Gets Us ads?
We ought to be thankful of the fact that the name of Jesus is making headlines, and is getting exposure at the Super Bowl. As Paul says in Philippians, even when people preach Christ out of selfish ambition and not sincerely, as long as their message is true to God’s Word, we should rejoice that Christ is being proclaimed (Philippians 1:15-18).
We should also pray in two ways: first, that these ads really do penetrate the hearts of people and cause them to think deeply about Jesus, and perhaps lead them to the Scriptures for a deeper understanding. We should pray for the Spirit to bring conviction upon people who have a distorted or incomplete view of Jesus, the Bible, and Christianity. However, we should also pray that Jesus is proclaimed Biblically and truthfully, without compromise. We should seek to speak the truth of the Gospel and Jesus for who God’s Word says he is, not who the world wants him to be, such as a good man or moral teacher who bends to the desires of our depraved hearts. Rather, he is God, who calls us to repent and turn to him for salvation, being the one and only way to heaven (John 14:6). While we cannot depend on a Super Bowl ad to do a perfect job of communicating systematic theology, we can expect those who claim to follow Jesus to do a good job of explaining who he truly was.