Responding to projection


The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah.
- Luke 3:15
What do you do when people project their Messianic desires on you?
They’re never explicit about it, but an attentive eye can spot it: the speed at which they move toward you, the way they reach out to you, the look in their eyes that signals the hope they have for you. Maybe they’re in your family or your workplace or your church. They need you to be the Golden One, the Rainmaker, the Savior.
But you’re not.
You know that, right? You might forget from time to time. You might take up the Messianic mantle, but the mad world has a mean way of mangling would-be Messiahs. The Messiah himself – Jesus Christ – wasn’t exempt from this resistance. 
You can feel it in the pressure to meet expectations. You can see it in the outsized responses to disappointments. The weight in your soul might make itself known.
When people project their Messianic desires on you there’s only one wise, safe, sane response: point them to Jesus. 
If a friend approached you to help them with their chest pains by performing open-heart surgery on them, you’d tell them you’re not qualified. The same goes for building a hyperloop, dunking on Lebron, or taking the hobbits to Isengard. You can’t do it. And that’s no moral failing.
You can’t be the Messiah. The best thing you can do for someone seeking salvation is to point them to the Savior. How do you do that?
Here are some ideas:

  • Offer to pray, then – right there and then – call out to Jesus
  • Share your own story for how you’ve depended on Jesus in an analogous situation, model a healthier way of carrying a Messianic desire
  • Encourage them to read the Gospels and connect with Jesus directly and for themselves

The freedom we have to participate in community life requires us to be willing to accept that we can’t save anyone and to enjoy that we follow a God who can save everyone. Race, upbringing, economic background, education … Jesus can rescue people at every point on every spectrum. And, in him, we can connect with each other in healthy ways.
Ask the Lord to give you the opportunity today to point someone toward Jesus.

1 Comment

This speaks directly to me about my current situation as a caregiver. The dependence on me is very high and when I disappoint (inevitably) the reaction is intense. I need to direct her more towards Jesus. I can help her read a gospel. Thank you for this reminder.

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