There is no simple answer. Jesus displayed many characteristics, and we might possess some of them and not others. Therefore, we might possess some characteristics that reflect Jesus that Putin does not, while he might convey some qualities that are like Jesus that we do not?
Created in Our Image
The answer in part depends on what Jesus we have in mind. Is it the Jesus of the Bible or the Jesus of American evangelicals? One striking characteristic of our Jesus is that He is strikingly like us. We are sure that He was a normal man, and since we are normal people, He must be like us. It seems not to dawn on us that maybe He is not like us, and that we need to be more like Him as He was described in Scripture.
Case in Point
It is a natural part of life to laugh and joke around, right? I have heard many an American evangelical describe Jesus in those terms because, after all, He was a normal person, and that is how normal people are. So I have heard it suggested that when a disciple lost his balance and fell into the water, Jesus let out with a good belly laugh. Others have speculated that when Jesus spoke passages using hyperbole He did so with a grin, amused at His own exaggeration, e.g. the mote and beam in one’s eye.
All this despite the fact that such content is nowhere even suggested in the gospels. Passages such as, “Jesus smiled and said…,” or “After Jesus had some good laughs with His disciples…,” are notably absent from Scripture, though many assume that this was just an oversight, but surely those occasions occurred.
However, it should be noted that not only are there no such passages in the New Testament, but also that such passages would seem out of sync with the mood throughout of the New Testament.
Jesus and Putin
I just read an article by a journalist who had interviewed Vladimir Putin. Perhaps the characteristic that he found most arresting was the serious nature of Putin. That perspective is reflected throughout the piece, such as in this observation: “Indeed, despite our repeated efforts to inject levity, he laughed exactly once during our 210 minutes together.”
This demeanor more reflects Jesus as described in Scripture than does the personality of most American Christians. Of course, the typical American evangelical retort, as suggested above, is, “Well we know Jesus must have had a sense of humor.”
Obama and Putin
I am guessing that one reason why during the current Ukraine crisis Putin never blinked while Obama never showed up is that Putin is a serious man and Obama is not. Putin is a person of purpose and drive that leaves little place for joking around. He sees this as a serious world and recognizes that we are confronted with life and death issues. This demeanor conveys a strength not found in most American politicians. It seems that this personal seriousness and strength of personality is giving Russia an advantage in global political struggles, while leaving us lacking.
Jesus and Us
I wonder if American evangelicals possessed the sincerity and strength conveyed by Putin whether we would not be gaining ground rather than losing terrain in the culture war. I wonder whether people would not take us more seriously. More important, I wonder if people would not take Christ more seriously.
I wonder if the reason that we don’t talk about and pray for persecuted Christians more (150 just murdered in Nigeria in recent days, and on March 4 a mother in Somalia beheaded in the public square in front of her daughter) is because they don’t fit into our good humor American evangelical template.
Maybe if we would allow Scripture and the plight of persecuted Christians to determine our attitude we would be more like Jesus.