Whenever we face despair in our country one of the most common refrains is, “People just need Jesus.”
My friends, I have bad news – Jesus is not the solution.
At least not the Jesus most of us mean.
The Jesus who is a neat little add on to our lives. The one we keep close in case we find ourselves in trouble or need reassurance that we are good people.
The Jesus who is only after mental agreement that he is God and asks little from us in return (besides inviting people to church and trying to cuss less).
This Jesus allows us to occupy pews with prejudiced hearts and systems unchecked. This Jesus allows us to pray “Thy Kingdom come” without considering the implications.
This Jesus allows us to imagine we are faithful disciples while doing most of our learning from cable news. This Jesus will make your life better if you simply pray at an altar or raise a hand with all heads bowed. This Jesus is easy.
This Jesus fits comfortably next to the gods of power and wealth and upward mobility. This Jesus doesn’t mind sharing space because this Jesus is enamored by those things too.
This Jesus allows us to harbor hate and bitterness. This Jesus allows us to distance ourselves from the world and feel good about it.
This Jesus surely didn’t mean love our enemies and turn the other check, because this Jesus is reasonable and really only wants us to be happy and healthy and make it to heaven some bright morning.
This Jesus has been invited into the hearts of slave owners, rapists, abusers, power hungry preachers, white supremacists, idolaters, war mongers, and the like and done nothing but help them feel more holy in their un-Christlikeness.
He is little more than a prop on the campaign trail and a get out of hell card should this whole thing turn out to be true.
This Jesus is powerless. And a fraud.
But there is a different Jesus.
One who is not beholden to the American dream. One who does not bend like a reed when politicians ask us to change our convictions for the promise of power. One who does not ask too little of us.
This Jesus is Lord.
This Jesus throws out the charlatans and calls the religious folk “white-washed graves.” They have the right hymns and sound bites and bumper stickers, but nothing of life and love on the inside.
This Jesus will not allow us to sit complacent. This Jesus will not allow us to settle for platitudes. This Jesus doesn’t want to just make you into a nicer version of yourself.
This Jesus will not tolerate our prejudices or violent words or the space we make for other gods. This Jesus demands we repent and turn from all things that look like death and destruction.
Even when we enjoy them. Or we want them. Or sell our souls to justify them.
This Jesus instructs us to love our neighbors, to welcome the outcast, to care for the sick, and imprisoned. This Jesus is less concerned about borders and budgets and security and constitutional amendments than we’d like to think.
This Jesus will call into question all our allegiances. To self, to family, to politicians, to country.
This Jesus is not safe. He will disrupt everything. He will put us at odds with people who follow the other Jesus and the kingdoms of the world. There will be hurt and pain and ulcers. He told us this. That following him would bring division because following him turns it all upside down.
This Jesus said, “If you want to follow me be ready to go to the death.” The other Jesus convinces us this was only hyperbole and we can go on living just the way we like.
But the true Jesus, the one from Nazareth, the one crucified under Roman rule and resurrected from the dead, he is Lord. And he is the only Jesus worth knowing.
This Jesus and all the disruption and difficulty and hard reflection that he demands is worth it. With this Jesus we find that this is the only way to truly live.
With this Jesus we find change and transformation for ourselves and the whole broken world. With this Jesus we find there is another Kingdom where the last are first and the greatest are servants and that even death leads to victory.
This Jesus pushes us outside of our walls and comfort zones and partisan talking points and air conditioned answers and confronts us with what is real and true and right and good. This Jesus changes minds and votes and spending behavior and addictions and priorities and conversations and attitudes and neighborhoods.
May we know this Jesus. May we follow him.
May we allow this Jesus full access to all our biases and comforts and brokenness to do with as he pleases. May he do his best work in places we don’t even realize need work.
May we put to death the false Jesus that has for too long masqueraded in our sanctuaries and rocked us to sleep. May we put away apathy and comfort. May we turn from the gods of power and wealth and personal success in order to fully and loudly proclaim, that Jesus is Lord.
And may this change the world.