One interesting tool in team-building within any organization, including the family, is a personality assessment. My favorite is probably one of the simpler ones – the Smalley-Trent Test. In it, people taking the test are scored on a range of four key personality types based on various animal-types, including the following:
The “Lion” – This represents the person with a strong personality who is prone to take the lead in any given situation. What matters is who is in charge.
The “Golden Retriever” – The represents the individual who is empathetic, caring and concerned about the concerns of the people around them. What matters is people’s needs.
The “Beaver” – This is the industrious personality who is concerned about the details of life and work. What matters is covering all the bases.
The “Otter” – This is the personality best described a “a party waiting to happen.” What matters is having fun no matter what they’re doing.
Over the years I have enjoyed using this personality assessment to counsel couples, teach classes, and evaluate employees. Recognizing personality styles can assist much in team-building. The thought occurred to me one day, “How would Jesus do on such a personality test?” It may seem a bit sacrilegious at first to even think such a thought, and yet it became an inspiration as I thought it through. After all:
Was Jesus a Lion? Was he a leader? Oh, yes. The “Lion of Judah” as a matter of fact. He boldly led his disciples and masses of people across the countryside of Palestine.
Was Jesus a Golden Retriever? Was he empathetic. Consistently. He was “moved with compassion” (Mark 1:41). On one occasion, he looked at the masses and “saw them as helpless and harassed, like sheep without a shepherd. . .” (Mt. 9:36).
Was Jesus a Beaver? Was he industrious and precise? Certainly. He came “in the fullness of time”; not a minute too soon, not a moment too late. He made sure there was plenty of food for the 5000 and even a gold coin in a fish’s mouth to pay his taxes.
But, was Jesus an Otter? Was he fun to be with and around? I believe he was magnetic. Many of the more conservative eyes of his day saw him as a partier, in fact. Since he spent time with the sinners of his day and the rabble-rousers, he was referred to by them as “a winebibber” (Luke 7:34). Chuck Swindoll wrote this:
If our greatest need had been information,
God would have sent us an educator.
If our greatest need had been technology,
God would have sent us a scientist.
If our greatest need had been money,
God would have sent us an economist.
If our greatest need had been pleasure,
God would have sent us an entertainer.
But our greatest need was forgiveness,
so God sent us a Savior!
The bottom line is this: Jesus defies our persistent attempts to label him. Perhaps what is most intriguing when one undertakes a prayerful and open-hearted study of the Gospels is not just the depth of the man, but his breadth as well.
Only Jesus is at the same time full of grace and full of truth.
Only he could show such outright compassion to societal outcasts and, yet, such utter defiance to the self-righteous ruling classes.
Only he could be so forceful and yet so kind.
Only he could confront political powers and somehow never seem at all political.
Only he could wash the feet of fishermen and, with the same hands, turn over the tables of errant religious officials.
Only he could be so authoritative and yet so approachable.
In order to deeply experience intimacy with God, the Scripture confirms that it comes by “looking unto Jesus…” (Heb. 12:2). Paul Goebbels thought he had found a savior. As it turns out, a “savior” was, in fact, what he was looking for, but not what he saw. The sincere seeker of God will regularly dust off the lenses of his own prejudices, notions and expectations and search for the genuine article. His soul is desperate to see not some icon or apparition, not a notion or a myth, but Jesus himself.
There is a wonder about Jesus. A wonder which the Holy Spirit himself wants to reveal within your heart and within mine. There is a glory about him that is missed when we approach him on a merely human level. All the while that we are placing labels around his neck, he desires to pull chains off of our hearts. We are wise to invite the Holy Spirit to inspire our reading of the Gospels, to direct our prayerful interaction with Jesus and to help us to see him clearly. Once our cultural conditionings are confronted, our eyes truly open and our ears quite clear to hear, we will no longer see the Jesus we were looking for, but the One who was, who is and who forever will be.