“He Gets Us” is spending upwards of a billion dollars on an advertising campaign to expose millions of people, including those who tuned in to the 2023 Super Bowl, to Jesus. But its attempt to win over the world with a modernized version of Christ failed to endear some of those it sought to engage.
The first commercial flipped through a series of black-and-white photos of children helping others in need. The 30-second clip ended with the tagline “Jesus didn’t want us to act like adults,” a reference to Christ’s teaching about childlike faith in Matthew 18.
“If I could see the world through the eyes of a child, what a wonderful world this would be,” the song narrated.
The second ad featured a slideshow of black-and-white photos depicting heated arguments — most of them political in nature.
“Jesus loved the people we hate,” the video concluded before plugging the He Gets Us campaign website.
These commercials offer the vaguest and most inoffensive and uncontroversial picture of Jesus possible, even to people who already have a distaste for Christianity. In fact, they are part of a larger campaign known for making radical comparisons between Jesus and the U.S. border crisis, which is harnessed by corrupt cartels for profit, and bold conflations of Jesus and his disciples with groups who roam the streets today, “challeng[ing] authority” and “ma[king] a lot of people uneasy,” in an attempt to appeal to current culture.
“We look at the biography of Jesus through a modern lens to find new relevance in often overlooked moments and themes from his life,” the campaign’s website states.
The hope in running these eyebrow-raising ads, campaign representatives disclosed, is to use an updated portrayal of Christ to sympathize with the plights of people who “are spiritually open, but skeptical” of organized religion.
In other words, the ads were deliberately designed to look, walk, and talk like the social justice agenda that has found its way into every American institution in the last decade in a last-ditch effort to appeal to a worldly culture.
Yet the universal messages communicated by these videos were still broadly rejected and smeared.
“Something tells me Jesus would *not* spend millions of dollars on Super Bowl ads to make fascism look benign,” progressive darling and Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez quipped on Twitter shortly after the second “He Gets Us” ad aired, with her tweet garnering nearly 200,000 likes and more than 20,000 retweets as of this writing.
No matter how hard Christian campaigns — especially evangelical ones — like He Gets Us try to win over the world by twisting the Gospel to fit our culture’s standards, they will fail.
Do Not Conform to This World
It should come as no surprise that even the tamest of ads that barely mentions Jesus was doomed from the start. Christian campaigns like He Gets Us operate under the premise that repackaging the Gospel to make our society think Christians and Jesus are cool entices people to consider following Jesus. Oftentimes, they go to great lengths to trash their own — faithful Christians — to be viewed and accepted by the same world that despises Christ-followers who hold Biblical views about marriage, sex, family, and life.
He Gets Us was born out of the idea that the Christians of today are not good enough at marketing Jesus. After all, an alarming number of Americans are abandoning church.
“How did the story of a man who taught and practiced unconditional love become associated with hatred and oppression for so many people?” organizers ask on the campaign’s website. As a result, they claim “many of us simply cannot reconcile the idea of that person with the way our culture experiences religion today.” They say:
Whether it’s hypocrisy and discrimination in the church, or scandals both real and perceived among religious leaders, or the polarization of our politics, many have relegated Jesus from the world’s greatest love story to just another tactic used to intensify our deep cultural divisions.
Anyone who reads his Bible, however, knows our society will never welcome the Good News with open arms. That’s because the Gospel, in its truest form, is offensive to the world. It announces unequivocally that every person is a vile sinner who deserves death and that even the so-called good works we do are tainted by self-interest and are filthy in the eyes of a holy God. It tells of a loving Father who gave up his only Son Jesus to live a perfect life and die the most brutal death imaginable as a sacrifice for the same sort of people who murdered Him. It proclaims that this Jesus miraculously rose from the grave, and it demands that anyone who follows Him must lay down his own comfort and desires and even his very life every single day.
Nothing about this offensive message conforms to our culture. In fact, the written Word of God demands that we “do not conform to the pattern of this world.”
Dressing up the Word of God to appeal to the masses is the exact opposite of what Jesus and the apostles did and what Christians are commanded to do. We are told to sow the seed of the Gospel everywhere and to everyone, to preach Christ crucified — not water down the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of the incarnate God, who detests sin, into someone who perfectly embodies the modern culture.
Jesus Doesn’t Need Rebranding
There is nothing wrong with bringing Jesus to the masses — it’s what we’re commanded to do — but we have to do it well.
Jesus wasn’t “only human after all,” as the song in the first He Gets Us campaign suggested. He was fully human and fully God, and Scripture tells us it’s only because of this glorious truth that Jesus was qualified to be our Savior.
Jesus’ mission from God to die for the sins of the world cannot be reduced to a few choice words he said. We care about what Jesus said, but we can’t separate that from what He did. Jesus didn’t just preach love your neighbor or love your enemies or have childlike faith. He rebuked sin, cast out demons, and promised eternal life for those who repent.
That alone is great news that doesn’t need editorializing or tweaking or watering down. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”
He Gets Us sends a different message: that maybe the pure Gospel is something to be ashamed of because maybe the power of God, absent fresh aesthetics and modern social justice narratives, isn’t enough to save.
That doesn’t mean we stop sharing the Good News on whatever platforms we can. There’s certainly a space for Christians to share the love of God — and the gift of new life by grace through faith in Jesus Christ — to the millions watching the biggest sporting event of the year and everyone else. But let’s not squander that opportunity by peddling convenient narratives.
Instead of transforming the life of Jesus to fit our culture, let’s tell the full story of Jesus — offensive and glorious as it is — to the watching world and see how it transforms them.