To many believers and non believers, Jesus is a powerful person. His words have often been quoted and interpreted by people of varying views. But as with any person, sometimes Jesus has words and assertions put into his mouth that He never said, or even suggested. And truth be told, the largest culprit in all of this is often we Christians. Yet, no matter where you are in the conversation about Jesus, sometimes we come to Him with our own perspectives and hope we can find a way to make His words sing our song.
So, here is some stuff you may have heard said or suggested, that Jesus never said or suggested at all…
1) “I am a card carrying, camouflage wearing, conservative republican.”
No, Jesus stands above and outside of any one political group. Though His message is very relevant to politics and all of life, He himself exists and stands by Himself, outside of any one political affiliation. And, take it from His brothers, Jesus isn’t a fan of being used for political gain or being pimped out as a political figure. (John 7:1-14)
2) “Danger Will Robinson, gay people are especially disgusting”
Though some in our culture do and would say Jesus does, the truth is Jesus never said nor suggested that homosexuality is any more dirty or disgusting than other sins. Where some churches and Christians take a hands-off, arms length approach to this issue and the people involved, Jesus is found drawing close to the people who the religious would just as soon condemn, discard or disregard. Debate as you will the issue of homosexuality and sin. No matter your conclusion, Jesus never shows by example nor words any kind of assertion that homosexuality is a special class of sin, and homosexuals a special class of sinner. If homosexuality is a sin in serious need of confronting, so is the flan-fed, fat back… Jack.
3) “The bigger and slicker the church and its pastor, the better”
Indeed, today we live in the age of the celebrity pastor and the franchise church. Some are healthy, some are not. We have been led to believe that when it comes to church and ministry, bigger and slicker is automatically better. In fact, it would take some digging through the tons of mailings sent to churches every day to find me a ministry conference for pastors that doesn’t have church growth and pastor performance as top topics of emphasis. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about ministry effectiveness in reaching people far from God etc. etc. God’s church should be a growing movement where creative and freedom flourishes. But, bigger and slicker does not automatically equate to better. A church and a pastor can have a lot of sharp, impressive looking activity and avatars going on without accomplishing near their redemptive potential. The way we do ministry these days as Christian leaders, you would have thought that Jesus actually said, “Brand it, buff it, build it, box it, as big as your ego can bake it.” Indeed, we have replaced “shepherd” with “franchise owner,” and “church” with spiritual “consumer club.”
4) “You should make sure people notice how devoted and super-duper in love with Me you are”
I know what you are thinking, but what about when Jesus says things like, “Let your light shine…?” Jesus’ words about “letting your light shine” are not a reference to your love for Jesus, but the new person you are in Christ. In fact, Jesus says ” you are” the light of the world. It’s about Christ shining as you and in you, not you shining how much you love Jesus.
Take it from Peter, boasting of your love for Jesus places the emphasis and burden on you and your performance, and in the end, shows you up as the denying hypocrite. However, boasting of Jesus’ love of you, like John, puts the emphasis and burden on Jesus, and leaves you reclined with Him at the table, resting in His Grace. Boasting of your performance and passion for Him leads to denying His, boasting of His performance and passion for you, leads to receiving and resting with Him and in Him.
5) “I prefer hymns, choirs, and organ music”
The way some churches feel about modern instruments and styles of music, you would have thought Jesus would have said just that, “I prefer hymns, choirs, and organ music.” Holy sacred cows batman. The truth is, Jesus never said nor suggested anything close to that, and there is no such thing as a Christian “style” of music. What makes music “Christian” or “sacred” is the words, not the style. A style that is worshipful to some may not be worshipful to others, but it does not make it any less worshipful to God. Furthermore, the same traditional hymns and instruments deemed to be exclusively sacred by some today, were in fact, highly controversial, contemporary, and even deemed “satanic” as little as 50-100 years ago.
6) “Your Bible is actually best used as a taser”
The way some Christians uses their Bibles, you would have thought Jesus had said, “Memorize it, mark it, and make it sting”
Jesus in fact said, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:38). Jesus said this as a message to make sure we never place the Bible and our use of it over Him and understand the purpose of the Bible is to lead us and people to an encounter and experience Jesus and the life He brings, not to tase them with it! Religious people use the Word of God to condemn, corner, control, and complicate. Jesus wants us to use the Bible to give His life, healing, Truth, freedom and Grace. The goal is not memorization and highlighting, but receiving, experiencing, and giving His life.
7) “Drinking beer will just make you burn brighter in Hell”
The very one who turned water into wine, and drank with sinners said that? Nope.
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Matthew 11:18.
Yes, drinking can be dangerous. Getting drunk is an obvious no brainer. And, in some instances and contexts, it can work against our ministry to people.
Yet, condemning those who drink responsibly as hell-bound sinners and second class Christians (and leaders) is both unfair and misguided. Furthermore, I would say in some contexts this attitude has done more to damage potential ministry to people than the puritanistic, religious approach to alcohol Jesus (and I) referenced above.
8) “The fast track to spiritual maturity is reading books by popular pastors”
We pastors and teachers are used by God in powerful ways to help people understand and experience God and His life. You would do well to learn from people who are wise in the ways of God.
Yet, what pastors teach and preach are often revelations from God they have experienced from their own study of the Word or other pastors/teachers who have studied the Word. Either way, somewhere along the way, someone has done the chewing on the Word so that there is something to teach/feed you.
As a Christian culture we have become fast-food spiritual consumers. There is a lot processed food out there. Book after book, conference after conference. Processed from some pastor or teacher who did the chewing, into your mouth.
This is perhaps a good start for the new believer or even a nice appetizer for the experienced Christian.
Everyone of my children started with processed, pureed foods that required little to no chewing. Later however, they started to chew it for themselves; having to process it, taste it, chew it, and digest it for themselves, over and over. To eat processed, pureed food now as emerging adults would leave them hungry, malnourished, and lacking the joy of real food.
This is what the Bible calls meditation. Meditating on the Word of God. Tasting, chewing, processing it for yourself. A direct revelation from God to you, for you, through you. Nothing wrong with listening and learning from pastors/teachers like me, but it never should take the place nor become more of your spiritual diet than you personally tasting, chewing, and processing the Word of God for yourself. What makes for a nice appetizer, won’t make for a good meal.
Stop relying on popular pastors for your spiritual diet and making them your main meal. You won’t grow through reading their books until you have made reading God’s book for yourself your primary way of encountering Jesus and His wisdom and revelation for your life.
Reading books by popular pastors isn’t a fast track to spiritual maturity. Besides, some (if not many) of them just present the Christian life (and the Gospel) as a bunch of new things you need to be doing more or better. To be sure, we live in the age of the performance-driven Christian, and there are tons of books to get you feeding on a diet of steps, strategies, and “to do” lists that will ultimately still leave you hungry.
Spiritual hunger for the Christian is a sign of immaturity, not maturity. Jesus actually said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)
No, the fast track to spiritual maturity is to realize in Christ, as a new creation, you have already been made fully mature! Now, believe it and go live what Jesus has already made you.
Spiritual maturity isn’t a process of performance-progress, but a process of believing more in who Jesus already made you into through His performance, not yours. It’s not about becoming a son (or daughter), it’s about living out your sonship that God has already given you and made you to become.