Jesus Doesn't Need To Be Cute

Someplace between reverence for God and being comfortable with His friendship it seems to me that some of us have run off the track. There is a dangerous flippancy in some of the attempts to make Jesus relevant to the current generation and this is certainly not just an issue for young people.

There are respected, seasoned Christians making millions off slogans and spiritual cliches that are designed to make people feel better in a world that is filled with bad news. The problem is that many things sell well in a book or on a T-shirt that are not necessarily honoring to God. It appears to me that many believers don’t seem to ask enough questions. The attitude seems to be if something has Christian stamped on it, it must be okay, or if it is sold in a Christian Bookstore it must be the genuine article and good for everyone.

I once saw a college student wearing a T-shirt that said on the back, "Turn or Burn". I wanted to ask him how many unbelievers had lined up wanting to turn to Jesus, but I already knew the answer. Another time a young man passed me on a path and stuck a gospel tract in my hand without ever breaking stride. Maybe he thought he would catch "heathenism" from me and didn’t want to risk getting too close to what he assumed was a lowly pagan.

Eugene Peterson puts it very well in a passage from The Message. Quoting Matthew, "Don’t reduce holy mysteries to slogans.In trying to be relevant, you’re only being cute, and inviting sacrilege."

Some of the insulting slogans I have seen on T-shirts seem to be designed so the Christian message can be worn on the back rather than lived in the life. There was a Christian fad that has faded away, as most fads do, that said "What Would Jesus Do?", I would submit that this is the wrong question, and it comes from a basic misunderstanding of the nature of the Christian life.* It assumes that my job as a Christian is to move about the world trying my best to act like Jesus. I hope you have not been convinced that the Christian life is about your performance. If you are honest you know you haven’t been able to "perform" to that level, and no amount of slogans on a bracelet will improve your chances.

The Christian life is not about you trying to be like Jesus. It is about you allowing the Jesus who lives inside you to act like himself. The Christian life is about Jesus life not about your life. The Christian life is not about you, it’s about God in you. Otherwise you may as well join some other religion that believes in an exterior, impersonal God.

You may remember what Jesus said when he left his disciples standing on the ground gazing up into heaven wondering what in the world they were going to do now. A paraphrase might sound like this. "I am going away but I am leaving you with the Holy Spirit who will be in you everything you need. Now get after it."

* The Christ in you is more than enough to meet every need you will ever have. So instead of asking what would Jesus do, ask Jesus, "What are you planning to do through me today?"

Jack Purcell is a retired Army LTC and had a second career at two different Universities as Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs. In between he twice served in leadership roles in two different Exchanged Life Offices. He now lives with his wife Mary in Boerne TX where he writes a weekly column in the Boerne Star, called On The Journey.