I recently received an email forward. I hate email forwards, but this one actually turned my stomach. It was called “One Nation Under God Painting.” It pointed me to a video about a recent painting. The painting is a depiction of Jesus surrounded by historical figures as well as archetypal American figures.

I am no legalist, and I don’t necessarily believe that an artist’s depiction of Jesus counts as a “graven image,” so that is not what bothered me. I also realize that Jesus was a middle-eastern man, most likely shorter than most people are today. This painting depicts him as a tall, white, fair-haired, effeminate man, but that really wasn’t what bothered me either.

What bothered me is that in this painting, Jesus is holding up the US Constitution. In fact, the constitution is the focus of the painting. The characters in the painting are not looking toward Jesus. Their eyes are fixed on the Constitution. One small child in the painting is reaching his hand out to touch…the Constitution. Oh for the woman who would reach through a crowd just to touch a hem of the Lord’s clothing!

I love my country and I love the Constitution. However, I love Jesus more and I am deeply troubled about this painting and its popularity among Christians. Here is why:

What it says about the person of Jesus:

In this painting, Jesus stands along side historical figures: Ben Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, John F Kennedy, etc. He stands to hold up the Constitution. It is as though He is equal to these leaders and His purpose is to uphold the United States. He shares this work with others and the glory is the Constitution. This is a far cry from who the Bible says Jesus is. The Bible says that Jesus always existed with God and is God (John 1:1). The Bible says that every knee will bow to Jesus (Philippians 2:10) and that even nature acknowledges Him as Lord (Luke 19:40). The idea that anything would be held up and praised above Jesus is contrary to scripture and reduces Jesus to something less than He is.

What it says about the Holy Spirit:

The artist, Jon Mcnaughton (not a Christian, but rather a Mormon), has said that the idea of the painting came as a vision to him, So be it. If this is of a spirit, let’s test the spirit (1 John 4:1). In John 16:13-14, we are told that the Holy Spirit will speak truth and glorify Jesus. If the Holy Spirit had given a vision for a painting, it would only be to glorify Jesus, not the US Constitution. Many Christians are excited about this work and should realize that its supposed spiritual origin is not of the Holy Spirit.

What it says about the Gospel:

What did Jesus come to do? What is His purpose? These are crucial questions. Their answers are what Christians call the Gospel. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He came to give life. He came to die on a cross and rise from the grave to redeem His people to the Glory of God! So what does this painting say about Jesus’ purpose? It would seem that the Gospel is more about maintaining American values. Many would say that is a fine cause and Jesus is associated with it. Jesus said to make disciples of all nations, how does this American message fit there? Do we go to the poor faithful of third world countries and say “Look, Jesus came to give us the U.S. Constitution?” Do you see that to affix another cause to Christ is to step away from the Gospel? Remember, Paul said that even if an angel from heaven should preach another Gospel, consider him to be accursed (Galatians 1:6-9).

Am I saying that the Constitution is not good? No, I am not. It is good. I’m thankful for it. However, it is not above Christ, it is not the message of the Holy Spirit, and it is not the Good News of Jesus Christ! I urge Christians to live according to your calling. Hold up Christ above even the best of things in this world. Seek only those ‘spirits’ which speak truth and hold up Jesus about all else. Proclaim the Gospel louder and bolder than any other message of our day!