In a distressing oversight for which I have no excuse, I do not keep a gallon of Jesus sitting in my refrigerator.
I’m sure you’ve seen it, Quasi-Christianity’s not so subtle attempt to mimic an overworked slogan of corporate dairy interests. It’s not surprising, given the blend of church culture with business, that what we see on TV one day, we read on a church LED board the next. I recently passed billboard that asked, “Need prayer? Text (777) GodLuvU and our caring worship staff will pray for you.”
It would be sad if it weren’t so . . . sad. I remember back in our church attendance days the pressurized discussions from leadership on why we needed this latest technology or that because, we learned via Powerpoint and charts and colorful graphs, today’s savvy, modern people demand this. If they walk into a sanctuary and see something old fashioned, like a book, say, they immediately leave, because the Modern Christian wants to worship in the Modern Way.
Guess I’m not an MC. I always kind of liked people, talking to them and getting to know them in an informal fashion without interference from a spiritual facilitator (leader), but this was not the way Jesus worked in the settings we endured.
How Jesus Works
How Jesus works, I learned in a recent article, is by being a material product, something I can grasp and hold and own, but only if I exhibit enough faith to do so:
“I’ve got Jesus.
“Oh, yes, I’ve got Jesus. He’s mine. I’ve got my sweet Jesus.” Just how one acquires this Jesus, which sounds more like a Precious Moments statuette or something to be ordered through Amazon or GreatGiftsFromGod.com, the writer did not clarify, but given the incessant repetition of the theme —
“I’ve got Jesus. Jesus is mine. My sweet Jesus is my sweet Jesus mine,”
it must be possible, desirable, and necessary. The overall impression I received was that, for those of us who don’t associate the Son of God with an overworked advertising slogan, we are missing something in our relationship.
But there’s a problem about “getting” Jesus, not just limited to a lack of clear thought about what this phrase means. The problem with Jesus — actually, the really great thing about Jesus — is that He’s a person, like you and me, albeit a different sort of person in that we interact with Him on a spiritual, not physical (for now) basis.
Our means of knowing Him is just that: knowing Him, the same way we know the people around us whom we love. We spend time with them. We listen to what they say. We argue with them, as we try to understand their way of thinking, versus ours. We contribute to the conversation by talking about our fears, our desires, our wants, our hopes, our hurts, our anxieties. And Jesus, because He’s a good listener, listens to us, even though we frequently think He doesn’t because the things we ask for don’t happen the way we think we’d like.
The Real Jesus Listens
But in the Got Sweet Jesus world, our only hope in life doesn’t want to hear about our desires, wants, hopes, hurts, or anxieties, because He wants us to want Him so much, that nothing else matters. We become so spiritually At One with Him, that we no longer live, operate, think, or act like . . . human beings.
In place of asking Him questions, we are to just “love” Him; instead of going to Him with our deepest needs, we are to toss those aside as evidence that we “trust” Him; rather than struggle with our understanding of what He is like, we need to just “accept” Him, but the problem with this requirement is that we frequently don’t know who, or what, we’re accepting, especially if our primary, indeed, only, exposure to Him is what is taught in standard evangelical circles:
Jesus loves you, but only if you accept Him by following a specific series of steps. If you don’t — and there are millions and billions who don’t — then you head to hell, forever and ever and ever. But it’s not His fault, it’s yours, because by not following His rules, you’re showing that you don’t love Him enough, and there’s nothing He can do about that.
With an “understanding” like this, it’s no wonder that people are reduced to repeating a mantra, a mindless series of words that numb their mind into accepting the love of a person who doesn’t act anything near like an even nominally decent human person would act (and when this is pointed out, the inevitable response is: “But God’s ways are not our ways,” which is true, but only because His ways are supposed to be better than ours, not worse).
Jesus isn’t a product. He is not a gallon of milk. He is not reduced to a simplistic song or a bumper sticker slogan: He is a deep, complex, merciful, loving, accepting, gracious, incredible Person, and getting to know Him requires struggling with the misconceptions that we are taught about Him, misconceptions that we cannot see, analyze, questions, override, and get beyond when we can’t get beyond pagan babble:
“I love my Jesus, my Jesus mine, my sweet Jesus, so Divine — Don’t you love your Jesus too? If you don’t, what’s wrong with you?”
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“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” Matthew 6:7.
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