"What man, living today, do you admire most?"
For over 70 years, Gallup has asked America that. Last December’s poll reported a tie for the top ranking. Barak Obama and Donald Trump were each chosen by 18% of respondents. Rounding out the top 10 were: former President Jimmy Carter, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Pope Francis, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, California Rep. Adam Schiff, the Dalai Lama, and Warren Buffett.
You’ll notice that most of the "most admired" are political figures. Since they were voted into office, it’s not surprising that they are much admired. Why else would people vote for them?
I wonder: If Jesus were living among us in America today, how would he do in the poll? Initially, you might think, "Not too well." He proclaimed himself "the king of the Jews" (Matthew 27:11), but his execution would seem to suggest that he didn’t win many votes.
But his wasn’t an elected position, and there were large numbers who did admire Jesus. Huge crowds threw an impromptu ticker tape parade (well, palm leaf parade) as he entered Jerusalem. Many became disciples -dedicated to learning to be like him. Some would eventually die for him. Clearly many people did like him and admire him.
Why? What was it that people liked about Jesus?
I think a big part of the answer to that is that he liked them. Regardless who they were or what they had done, he genuinely liked them. "A friend of tax collectors and `sinners´," Jesus hung out comfortably with people whom others shunned. When the woman with the worst reputation in town washed his feet with her tears, Jesus didn’t recoil. When one caught in adultery was accused before him, Jesus refused to condemn. When his closest friends swore they didn’t know him and quit the company, he quietly forgave and offered them their old jobs back.
I’m convinced that, if he lived next door to you, you would like Jesus. I don’t think you could resist it. He would be an excellent neighbor - and friend. And he certainly likes you.
If we don’t admire Jesus, perhaps we need to take time to get to know him better. For centuries, millions have rightly put him at the top of their personal "most admired" lists.