I actually wanted to title this “Jesus Isn’t That Into You” as a play off of the movie…but that would have really brought the hate mail.
So let me start with a disclaimer.
Let me say, unequivocally, that I think Jesus is “into you” (although I think that sounds weird).
But maybe…maybe Jesus isn’t that into you. Or, at least, not as solely about you as we’ve made it out to be. Jesus doesn’t want to be my boyfriend.
Let me explain for a second.
In my blog on 5 Phrases I Think Christians Shouldn’t Say, I got a lot of push back for #2 on my list, “You just have to do God’s will…” Specifically for my statement in the subsequent lines where I posit that I’m not convinced that God’s greatest wish is for us to be in relationship with God.
I should have put an asterisk next to that statement because, here’s what I really mean by that: I think that Christianity has adopted a “win souls for Jesus,” “you must invite Jesus into your heart,” “you need to have a personal relationship with Jesus” mentality at the sacrifice of every other type of relationship that God might desire for humanity.
We’ve given up our relationship as stewards of the Earth so that we can build monstrous mega-church compounds on open land to focus on the “Jesus-and-Me” relationship, adopting crazy ideas that perhaps global warming is fake and is God’s plan for the world.
We’ve given up our authentic relationships with others who, perhaps, don’t think the same things we do, because our singular focus is now to try and convert and “win souls for Christ.”
American evangelical Christianity has focused so much on fostering personal relationships with Jesus Christ, most other relationships are left in the dust…
Plus, speaking from a place of honesty, much of the agnostic/marginally Christian world (and a good number of us convicted Christians) finds the super-close-Jesus-is-my-boyfriend talk creepy.
I think we all want to be known; really known. And I think God knows us; truly knows us.
But when we start talking about Jesus like he’s our lover in the modern sense we really are talking in ways that put people off.
Don’t think we do that? Consider the song “In the Secret.” Here are the lyrics:
In the secret, in the quiet place
in the stillness you are there.
In the secret, in the quiet hour I wait
only for you (this part is usually whispered)
Because I want to know you more.
I want to know you,
I want to hear your voice
I want to know you more.
I want to touch you
I want to see your face
I want to know you more.
Or what about Hillsong’s “I Surrender” where you sing “have your way in me, Lord”? I’ve banned that song from my church because I can’t hear that without imagining how someone who has been sexually abused hears it…
I mean, c’mon folks, maybe Jesus isn’t that into us.
I’m all for the talk of having the “heart strangely warmed,” to use a Wesley phrase (and he was reading my boy, Luther, btw). I’m all for the stirring of the spirit, for soul-stirring that you can’t explain. I’m Lutheran, a spiritual descendant of the one who kept repeating over and over again, pro me, when it came to Jesus’ promises in Scripture.
It’s personal. And the opposite can be true. A lot of places talk so much about God in the abstract, that any sort of relational talk is totally absent.
But I hear less of the latter and more of the former. It’s good to talk about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but we’ve taken that and run right into the crazy bin.
If that’s all we focus on, the personal…and that’s a lot of what I hear…then, well, I think the boat has been missed, by and large.
When Jesus said “Love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself,” I don’t think he imagined we’d stop on the first part as much we have. Remember, that second part is “like the first.”
I’m all for a relationship with God; the mystic in me can’t do without it. St. Julian spoke of her relationship with Jesus in the most intimate way possible (totally scandalous…everyone should read some St. Julian). But even from Julian you get the sense that she’s speaking from a “remain in me” kind of way, echoing Jesus from the Gospel of John.
But if it stops there…
No, really…I think a lot of places talk as if it goes on from there, about helping the neighbor, loving people for who they are and where they are in life, but it’s really just about you and Jesus and what you gain from that.
If that’s the case, well, then I’d say you have relationship issues. Maybe it’s good to consider that Jesus might not be that into you…not your boyfriend.
And that singular focus that I hear so much really often makes me a reluctant Christian.
I keep coming back here because you so often talk about the very things that are bothering me as I slowly make my way back into Christianity. I hope you don’t get hate mail, but I’ve spent too much time among certain brands of Christians to believe that hope is anything less than hoping for a miracle. For me, however, you’ve struck the right chord.
I have to applaud your willingness to be provocative. 🙂 I’m a bit uncomfortable with the whole “me and Jesus” thing, too, although I am a firm believer in having a close, personal relationship with Jesus. You’re right, that if it’s real, it will be a springboard to living the way He wants us to live. I’ve been reading 1 John lately, and I can’t get over how it talks so clearly about the necessity for us to love each other. If we don’t love each other, how can we love God? It’s love for one another that gives evidence of our love for Jesus. Are we living up to that? Don’t get me started on the topic of unity. Anyway, thanks much for an interesting and thought-provoking post.
You make some very Real points..on issues I’ve wondered about privately for quite awhile. Thank you and please keep it coming.
amazing! a real pastor with a honest approach to God. applause applause applause!
Really love your perspective on things and this is no exception. To stop at loving Christ is to miss the mark completely. However… I want to draw your attention to something you wrote about Hillsong’s “I surrender” and survivors of sexual abuse… I myself am a survivor of rape and sexual abuse and I do not find anything untoward in that song. “Have your way in me, Lord” to me, speaks of the Holy Spirit moving in my life… God’s way in me is love. There is no sexual connotation. The Holy Spirit moves in me (has its way) thus enabling me to love my neighbour as I am loved. I appreciate your concern, but I think to look upon it in a sexual manner is equally missing the mark.
Interesting viewpoint. I don’t really want to argue either. I think we run the risk of going too extreme in one direction or the other, from some churches’ “Jesus-and-me” singing Vineyard love songs experiences, to some churches’ “go out into the world doing social things while ignoring your personal spirituality that should be driving you to go out into the world.”
Two sides of one coin. It’s both-and, not either-or. I need a relationship with God, one that motivates my corporate relationship with others and my/our better relationships with the world around us. Or else what’s the point.
We had a leadership brunch where the speaker talked to some of this, reminding us that loving God should drive loving our neighbor – in other words God didn’t save us to sit around loving Him in our worship services, because we have all eternity for that. Some of our worship team took great umbrage with the thought that the speaker did not focus enough on how worship is essential to reflecting God to the world. It’s sad, because I think they missed the point. It’s great if you’re reflecting God like a mirror. It’s bad if you’re only reflecting God to another mirror of God. There’s a world out there that needs to see the reflection. Stop hogging the mirror.
I always enjoy your perspectives, even if I don’t 100% agree. Good post.
The Lutheran church, as I have experienced it at LMC, differs from the church of my childhood is three or four important and positive ways. Instead of focusing on that one special moment in your youth when you ‘accepted Jesus”, Lutherans ask, “Now that you know that God has been with you all along, now how will you live, how will you love, how will you move forward into a fuller life – with God and with your neighbor?”
As a former singer with a praise band, I always complained when we sang the “Jesus is my Boyfriend” songs. I do not believe that Jesus calls us to be in love with him – but to be his love in the world.
There’s a great South Park episode (Christian Rock Hard) that deals with this exact issue, at least as it relates to modern Christian praise music. The episode takes Jesus- as – my – boyfriend lyrics to a very creepy extreme, in true South Park fashion. So it might be offensive to some, but its critique of the Christian music industry is spot on.
Sometimes I’m amazed at your posts and just how much I’ve thought the same things but never attempted to vocalize them. Thank you for what you do!
And I have to say, I used to work for a Christian bookstore and while there we had popular Christian praise music going constantly. Not all of it was bad, but there IS a whole lot of creepy and “industry” pushing a lot of sound-the-same-redundancy to make a buck.
As a newcomer and retired pasror I find your posting refreshing and “right on “. Many thanks for your openness and courage. Keep on challenging us to do what the church hasn’t encouraged…..think