Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Real Jesus

 A little over a week ago I was involved in a discussion with a couple of guys who are having a hard time these days. Work is scarce, and they are in situations that make life very complicated. We talked about all kinds of things covering many areas of interest, but eventually the talk turned to church. Neither of these guys are big church-goers, but they know my background and they had some issues they wanted to raise with me. It seems in their experiences, church has not been a place of healing or comfort. It has not been a center of love and forgiveness. It has been a place where they were made to feel like second class citizens because they had no money to give. It has been a place where they were told that if they really were Christians, God would bless them- implying they couldn't be followers of Jesus and still be having problems in their lives. In short, the church has failed them. And they asked a very insightful question: Why does the church sometimes seem to be more about traditions, politics and money than it is about Jesus?

We often refer to the church as an institution, and unfortunately, I believe we are too often correct. It is bound by policy and leadership and tradition, and it has become a very sanitized place. For those of us who are USAmericans (everyone who lives in North or South America is an American; why do we claim that title for ourselves?) it seems we have turned Jesus into a wimp; a toothless, republican voting white guy who is against all kinds of things, and for almost nothing. This is not the Jesus of the scriptures. This is not the the Jesus who hung out with sinners and the people society scorned; this is not the Jesus who shouted down church leaders; and this is not the Jesus who gave up His seat next to God to come to earth and die for us, that we might be reconnected with the Father. We may not want to hear it, but if the church is misrepresenting Jesus, then we are failing at the only mission we have. We need to show the people around us "the real Jesus" if we want them to understand and follow the Christ. Our pastor, Matthew Hartsfield, is fond of saying "we are God's Plan A for taking Jesus to the world- and there is no Plan B."

So who is "the real Jesus?" The band Downhere wrote a song in 2006 that attempts to answer the question, and I believe they were painfully honest and very close to the truth. Maybe it's because they are Canadian, but they have attacked the myths and want us to see who we really follow. The lyrics are below. The song is called The Real Jesus.

Jesus on the radio, Jesus on a late night show, Jesus in a dream, looking all serene
Jesus on a steeple, Jesus in the Gallup poll, Jesus has His very own brand of rock and roll
Watched Him on the silver screen, Bought the action figurine
But Jesus is the only name that makes you flinch

Oh, can anybody show me the real Jesus?
Oh, let Your love unveil the mystery of the real Jesus

Jesus started something new, Jesus coined a phrase or two
Jesus split the line at the turning point of time
Jesus sparked a controversy, Jesus, known for His mercy, gave a man his sight
Oh Jesus isn't white!
Jesus loves the children, holds the lambs, Jesus prays a lot
Jesus has distinguishing marks on His hands

If anybody walks behind the Good Shepherd, If anybody holds the hands that heal lepers
And if you recognize the eyes that see forever, me 
Oh, can anybody show me the real Jesus? Oh, let Your love unveil the glory, the real Jesus
Oh, can anybody show me the real Jesus? Oh, let Your love unveil the glory of the real Jesus, the real Jesus

The modern church gets so wrapped up in numbers, in politics, in denominations and in theology. In my ministry, imperfect though it was, I tried to make sure that the students understood one very basic truth- It's All About Jesus! The institution we call the church sometimes forgets that. The guys I was speaking with have just about given up on the church. I pray they don't do the same with Jesus, because in the world we live in, the two are not always related...may God have mercy on us.

Because of Jesus,


  1. Hi there,

    According to your "About Me" page you're a Narnia fan! That's awesome because, on my blog, I'm giving away three free copies of a new book that I think us Narnia fans are going to love. It's called Curse of the Spider King, by best-selling author Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper. If you're interested, Click here to check it out!

    -Jacob Parker

  2. I find it interesting that the U.S. calls itself a Christian nation and their entire economy is based on the one thing that made Jesus get violent...usury.

    Christianity took a sharp turn when Ralph Reed attached the Republican party to it. Suddenly, Christians (under the guise of conservatism) stopped contributing to the poor, the needy, the meek and hungry and began contributing to their portfolios and bombing brown people. God given rights have given way to fear and invasive control for our own protection. I would make a comparison to another time in history if we were marching across Europe. Of course, we aren't doing that. What would Jesus say?

    P.S. When did capitalism and Christianity become synonymous?

  3. Erik, you make some excellent points. I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God, and no political party will ever represent me in that regard. Contrary to what we hear from various church mouthpieces, Bush was neither God nor Satan (Satan is much smarter!)and Obama is not the messiah; nor is he the devil. Neither party calls us to live the Christ-like life of love and sacrifice. Neither party calls on us to love our neighbors of to turn the other cheek. We are NOT a Christian nation. We can, however, rise up and be a Christian people seeking to save this nation. The plan is found in Acts 2, and it involves communal living, the sharing of resources and caring for each other. Hmmm...sounds like what many in the evangelical church would now call socialism...God help us all.

  4. What an inspiring and very correct post. I happen to be reading a book called "whats so amazing about grace" by Philip Yancey and in it he talks about a prostitute and how a christian man spoke to her about going to church. Her reaction summed up your opinion of many a church:
    "Church? Me? Why would i want to go there, i already feel bad and low as it is without them telling me"

    The greatest thing we are missing from the Church is that message of grace. Unconditional Grace. The last great word!!!

    Amen to you brother!

  5. You make some very cogent points, yourself. Your point of view is so refreshing! Thanks.


Thanks for reading,and thanks for your comment!