While studying John Calvin in seminary, I realized that, as much as I respect him as a reformer, a scholar, etc, I don’t think we would get along. I think it’s likely that few Presbyterians would get along with the man who is credited with starting, not just our denomination, but the spiritual, theological and organizational movement that birthed many current denominations. Times have changed, and his autocratic leadership style, while very effective in 16th century Geneva, generally only works in cults or churches on the fundamentalist fringe.
We wouldn’t like him today; we wouldn’t feel that he was one of us. Most likely, he wouldn’t like us ether.
If he were around today, we might not like the guy that some people credit with the foundation of our faith. He might not like us either.
What about Jesus? As much as we might like to think of him as a laid-back, rock-star handsome white guy in a robe and sandals who only ever got angry once, that’s not who he was. He was also a man on a mission— an austere, laser-focused, anti-materialistic nomad on a collision course with the status quo and the powers that be. “Give it all away and follow me,” he told the young rich man, and when the young man went away sad, Jesus let him go.
Sometimes almost incapable of giving a direct answer, other times calling people out publicly (including his best friends- “get behind me Satan!) for their attitudes and actions, it must have been very exciting and kind of scary to hang out with him. He went to the Temple, but didn’t care about who was in charge. I don’t think many pastors would like him visiting their church, pointing out hypocrisy and delivering his own message, even though there’s a well-planned and publicized sermon series already going on.
I don’t know that we would like Jesus if he showed up. I know he would love us, but would he like us?