Charles Wesley once wrote a poem now considered a classic for children. The first line states, “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon this little child.” Cecil F. Alexander wrote in Once in Royal David’s City, “Christian children all must be, mild, obedient, good as He.” I find it both sad and offensive that the only word they could come up with to rhyme with the word “child” was “mild”. I find it patently offensive that they chose to apply this term “mild,” to Christ Himself! This situation isn’t helped by the often flowery, soft images that portray Christ. Even in images of the crucifixion, reality is often sanitized to the point where it becomes impossible for one to see it truthfully in their mind’s eye.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am not charging Mr. Wesley or Mr. Alexander with purposefully insulting Jesus by calling Him “mild,” but I do believe it is wholly incorrect and harmful to our thinking that they chose that word for Him. Mild, the Man who flipped tables in the temple not once, but twice! Mild, the Man who challenged and exposed the hypocrisy of the powerful religious forces of the day, who knowingly walked resolutely to His death despite His closest friends begging Him not to do it! Mild, the Man whose personality, 2000 years later, has not been extinguished or slowed down despite every effort being made to do so!
Is it a wonder that as children grow up they begin to find their heroes (spiritual or otherwise), in others besides Christ? Growing up with a view of a soft, sentimental Jesus who is so sickly-sweet as to become inhuman, a wallflower who occasionally says some words on a page, gives nothing to hold onto. What is worse is that if Jesus is an accurate depiction of God in human form, then it makes God out to be this overly-soft, pushover-sentimental being as well. It makes a caricature out of Him, exaggerating His sentimental care for us at the expense of all His other qualities. How well can a mature adult follow and worship a God who is seen as less emotionally developed as his own? Furthermore, since God is love, how can we have an accurate picture of love if this is our foundation for it?
Love is more than always saying kind words and soft phrases. It is more than hugs and kisses and rainbow lollipops. It is an area of truth, sometimes hard and sometimes not. It is a place of helping and guiding, which can involve pain and a firm hand. Love is both a blade and a bandage, both a safe-house and a revealing mirror. If we withhold the hard aspects of love from those we claim to love the most, we are hurting them far more than the loving truth would.