October 22, 2017

A Most Difficult Name

I am a man of words. Not a man of few words—just ask those who have spent any time with me. I read and write and speak in words. We all use words everyday in one way or another. As Christians, we are people of The Word.

But I’ve noticed there are certain words we avoid because they make us uncomfortable. We’ll look at two such words today. Stand by to squirm.

Jesus.

Why is it that Christians of all people have so much trouble with the name of Jesus? “God?” No problem. “Lord?” Even better. “Father.” “Supreme Being.” “The Almighty.” All of these are perfectly acceptable names in referring to deity. God, etc., keeps us at arm’s length—and a very long arm at that—from any actual encounter with the divine.

But Jesus? That gets just a bit too personal. His name is raw and earthy. God is in the heavens. He is safely distant, coming only when we call for him. But Jesus? Jesus is intrusive. He is here. He wears sandals and a tunic and eats fish and rides donkeys and makes mud from spit and dirt. Jesus doesn’t wait to be invited—he barges right into life.

Jesus upends lives everywhere he goes, starting before he was born. Jesus invaded—in a very literal way—the lives of a young teenage girl and her fiance. An angel came to speak to the young girl in person, and in a dream to her fiance. Both of their lives were changed forever because of Jesus. Joseph and Mary were doing all the right things, and now were the center of a scandal not of their making. It was to this Joseph—we are told he was a good man—that it was told the child’s name would be Jesus.

Jesus. A real, common, ordinary name that now brings great offense when it is spoken.

Jesus changed lives wherever he went. He healed people who seemed to be content in their distress and disease. He cast out demons, one time destroying another’s livelihood by sending the evil spirits into a herd of pigs that went sailing over a cliff. He scared a servant silly by telling him to take a pitcher of washing-water to the host of a wedding to drink. How was the servant to know it would become fine wine? Jesus became a name associated with miracles—free food, coins in the mouths of fish, dead people suddenly undead—but also with crazy talk.

Yes, his sermons were delivered with authority the Jews had never before encountered. His parables were interesting stories. Yet it seemed whenever the crowds became too large, too interested in what was in this for them, that Jesus would say something to drive them away.

“Eat my flesh. Drink my blood.”

“Hate your spouse, hate your parents, hate your kids.”

“Don’t go bury your father. He’s dead. Leave him be. Follow me.”

This was Jesus speaking then, and he speaks yet today. And that is why the name of Jesus makes so many uncomfortable.

In the third book of his Space Trilogy, That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis’s character Mark Studdock shows his discomfort when he hears the name of Jesus.

And at the name of Jesus, Mark, who would have lectured on abortion or perversion to an audience of young women without a qualm, felt himself so embarrassed that he knew his cheeks were slightly reddening; and he became so angry with himself and Mr. Straik at this discovery that they then proceeded to redden very much indeed. This was exactly the kind of conversation he could not endure; and never since the well-remembered misery of scripture lessons at school had he felt so uncomfortable.

That is the case with so many of us still today. We are ok with talking about anything but Jesus.

Do you think I’m wrong? You think I am overstating my case? Visit just about any evangelical church you like this coming Sunday. Listen—really listen—to the lyrics of the songs sung. Count the number of times the name of Jesus is mentioned. You will hear “Lord,” “God,” “King.” But seldom will you sing the name of Jesus. In my own church we can go weeks without the name of Jesus appearing in any of the songs’ lyrics.

When the music is over and the pastor begins his sermon, start the count again. How often will he or she name the name that we claim is above all names? Michael Spencer wrote about Christless preaching many years ago. I dare say the situation has not improved in the least.

So is this just a straw man I am building? Does it really matter whether we use the name of Jesus or not? I believe it does for these reasons.

1. When we leave Jesus out of our songs, we tend to sing about us. The focus becomes on what we are doing for God, how much we love him, how we are dancing in the river, or whatever metaphor lends itself to making us feel good about ourselves. So many songs that leave out Jesus are simply emotional feel-good sing-alongs that are empty of any true worship of the only one worthy of worship. And that one is not you and it is not me.

2. Leaving Jesus out of sermons likewise allows the focus to be turned onto how we can become better people. Better parents, better employees, better church-goers. Without Jesus we end up with sermons on how to have great sex, how much is a true tithe, what party is God’s chosen party that election cycle. Without Jesus as the center of every sermon there is no Gospel message. And if we are not preaching the Gospel, we are wasting our time.

3. Without Jesus, all we have is a moralistic religion, and a not very fun one at that. We would be better off to each buy a copy of Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, work the system, and try to make as much money and find as much happiness as we can. Without Jesus, there is no Christianity. Without Jesus we are left with churchianity—and that makes us of all men most miserable.

Jesus offends. The name of Jesus is in-your-face offensive, and especially to those who call themselves Christians but really are most interested in getting what they want out of life. The name of Jesus causes demons to tremble, even those demons we allow to ride on our shoulders. At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, so it is not surprising our knees buckle on hearing his name even now. Give me a nice, mellow “Lord” if you please. Keep your earthy Jesus to yourself. That way I don’t have to face his demands on my life.

When I began working with Michael on becoming a book author, I asked him a question I had asked hundreds of authors: If you could write only one book in your lifetime, what would that be? He didn’t hesitate. “I want to write about our need to be Jesus-shaped people,” he said. “We need our lives to be based on Jesus, not church, not religion.” Unfortunately for Michael, that is the only book he ever did write. Fortunately for us, he did write Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality. May we never forget we are Jesus people. May we never be offended at the name of Jesus.

May we say, sing, speak the name above every name every chance we can.

Jesus.

 

Comments

  1. Gail McNeeley says:

    Well, dear Jeff, you nailed it! I’ve become so disheartened by our church services and what they lack that I hardly ever make myself go. My life as a wife and mom necessitated many moments of saying Jesus’s name outloud as I called for help. Now, more often, I thank Jesus for who He is and what He’s done. For me, it’s become so much more about HIM!

  2. Eric G says:

    Over the last couple of years, I’ve found that Wordle program a very helpful tool on the internet. Cut and paste people’s sermons into that and see in picture form what the most important words are in the message. Even Piper’s messages dominate with the word God, instead of Jesus or Christ.

    • Like!

      • “Even Piper’s messages dominate with the word God, instead of Jesus or Christ.”

        In my journey in the wilderness, this was my biggest problem with modern version of Calvinism. The concept of a Sovereign God is much more important than the goodness, grace, and mercy of Christ on the cross.

        • Josh in FW says:

          I think you make a very important distinction when you say “modern version”. I couldn’t put my finger on it before, but I think this why most PCA Calvinists don’t bother me nearly as much as the current crown of “Reformed Baptists”. It seems that many Reformed Baptists are so excited about their new found theological depth that they can’t wait to [less gracious verbs deleted] tell you all about it and why you just don’t get it. The more traditional Calvinists (the PCA is the group I am most familiar) seem to be so sure of their theology that they don’t feel the need to argue about it. Just some thoughts.

  3. excellent post – so true!

  4. Actually, quite a lot of the newer worship songs coming from places like Vineyard and Hillsong do mention Jesus quite a bit — even when they are about our feelings or my feelings and what we/I do for him, and even when they consist of a lot of “vain repetition”.

    And then there is the Plymouth Brethren tradition. Don’t know about the “exclusive” or “closed” Brethren, but the “Open Brethren” in the UK constantly talk about Jesus and generally address their prayers to “Lord Jesus”.

    So this varies

  5. JoanieD says:

    Excellent post, Jeff! There are lots of issues to have with the Catholic Church, but I have to say, at least in the circles I run in, that in the homilies and in the teachings, Jesus is central and I am VERY happy about that.

    I also just read Rob Bell’s book Love Wins. I know some folks felt it would be very controversial, but I liked the book very much and I am happy to see that he would put Jesus central to all else as well. For those of you who have heard of the book but not read it, he really doesn’t say things that other folks have not said, but he says them in a very engaging way. I like the way he thinks. He points out the various ways that Christians have understood what the books of the Bible say and assures people that they don’t have to think that only a few people will be “saved” in order to be a REAL Christian. (Jeff or Mike…if you feel this paragraph is too off-topic, feel free to delete it.)

    • Pattie says:

      Great post, but Joanie took the words right out of my mouth. Every single Sunday, or every single day should we choose to go to Mass, we WILL hear:

      “On the night before He died, Jesus took the bread, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said….”

    • Adam Palmer will have a review of Bell’s book for us next week.

    • flatrocker says:

      Joanie,
      Excellent point, within the context of our Mass, we have been gifted with powerful Jesus-Shaped worship.

      However…(ever notice there’s always a “However”)….After the Mass has ended and we are dismissed, we end up in the same pile.

      In the hallway conversations, during the donuts and coffee, during the “business” of conducting church business, on many Parish staffs, during Parish Council meetings, during ministry planning sessions, during our time in the community at large and with our friends and acquaintences, etc, etc….it has been my experience that we just don’t mention Jesus.

      We’re comfortable with phrases that refer to God or Lord, or the Father. Or we talk about how the Spirit is moving us or how the Spirit is at work. Or being the good Catholics that we are, we liberally sprinkle in Mary or a saint or two, but we just don’t invoke the name of Jesus very often. This is especially troubling in light of the power and focus we have on Jesus in the Mass.

      It may be that we are forcing an imbalance in the Trinity, but that is not the nature of the Trinity. The consequence of this subtle shift should concern us deeply. I wonder if it does.

  6. Steve Newell says:

    On every Sunday, I will hear the words of Jesus even if the pastor’s sermon is not able Jesus. In the lectionary, i know that I will hear an Old Testament, an Epistle, and a Gospel reading.

    I hope the pastor’s sermon is not just including Jesus but about what Jesus has done for me, Gospel. If the sermon is about what I must do for Jesus, is just preaching the Law. Also, I have noticed that many pastors will throw Jesus’ name into the sermon but the sermon isn’t really about him.

    On many Christian songs (both old and new), I could have a Mormon or a Muslim sing the song since they are very generic about “god” without being explicitly Christian, such as strong trinitarian theme.

  7. Yeshua. His name is Yeshua, which in Hebrew means “Jehovah saves” — Jesus is only the Greek equivalent. It is as though we said San Pablo instead of Saint Paul. It is as though your name were Henry and everyone insisted on calling you Enrico even outside of Spanish-speaking countries.

    So are you Jeff or Geoff or Geoffrey or Jeffrey or Jefferson or what?

    • Well, Aurora, the 78 year old cashier at my local WalMart who is from Venezuela, calls me “Hayff.”

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

      Not to get too nitpicky on a point that is nitpicky by its very nature, but the idea that his given name was Yeshua is just an assumption (albeit an admittedly likely one). The only texts we have that specifically refer to him by name are in Greek and refer to him as Iesous. Due to the limitations of Greek vs. Hebrew, the Greek Iesous can be a transliteration for a handful of Hebrew/Aramaic names. In the Septuagint, it most commonly transliterates the Hebrew Yehoshua (i.e. Joshua), though in many of the post-exilic books it does indeed transliterate Yeshua. For us Engish-speakers the transliteration train went from Hebrew (assumed and unknown, but likely either Yehoshua or Yeshua) to Greek (Iesous) to Latin (Iesus) to German (Jesus with a “y” sound for the “J”) to English (Jesus).

      My point, of course, is that it’s perfectly legitimate for English-speakers to refer to him as Jesus. Heck, ever since English could be consider English we referred to him as Jesus!

    • Yeah, a Jewish Southern Baptist friend of mine insists that Jesus is more accurately translated from Hebrew Yeshua as Joshua. Not try saying that in church or in a worship song! “Josh died on the cross for my sins, oh Josh you are my savior! I will follow Josh all my days…” That will make people uncomfortable 😛

      • JoanieD says:

        “I will follow Josh all my days…”

        That’s funny, Miguel! It really does lack a certain ring, doesn’t it.

  8. Seems right to me Jeff. In my experience, the only time I hear the name Jesus outside of a church setting (which is not exactly flush with its use) is in profanity and the opening prayers of NASCAR races.

  9. The biggest change in my prayer life has been addressing each of the members Trinity separately, Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

    In your article, I am not necessarily concerned whether people say “Jesus” or “Son”, the bigger problem is not saying either. In the evangelical world, the problem isn’t necessarily what we call the Son, but rather we have substituted a unitarian “God” in place of the Triune God. Of all the heresies in the modern evangelical world, I believe this is by far the biggest and most important.

    • Agreed.

      • Pattie says:

        for SURE! He is not a nice, tidy, generic, non-offending “High Power”. Part of the reason I loathe totally “inclusive” public prayer that hits every god/goddess/ Flying Spaghetti Monster in the mix!

  10. We’re always mentioning Jesus’ name in our worship songs and our Scripture-sharing and our “What’s the Lord done in your life this week?” discussions at our church (the two house groups I attend), so I guess my experience doesn’t relate to this post very well.

    On the other hand, Jesus was always pointing to and talking about God the Father, so to do the same (versus always using Jesus’ name when discussing God) doesn’t strike me as implying discomfort with Jesus’ name.

    As for the proper way to say His name – whether Jesus or Yeshua or whatever – the fact that Paul and the other Jewish NT authors had no problem calling him IHCOYC in their letters and conversation, as opposed to a more literal transliteration of the Hebrew/Aramaic Yeshua, makes it no big deal to me whether someone calls Him GEE-zuz or Hay-SOOS or however their language translates His name.

    • It may not imply discomfort in every case, but my church would tell you of another side of the story: God the Father is the only member of the Trinity talked about. Somehow, this misconstrued theology came out of a legitimate emphasis on God’s acceptance of sinners(like a loving Father). Unfortunately Jesus’ absence from sermons and conversation completely sabotages the approach. And when I say “Jesus’ absence” I mean both his name and the historical content regarding his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, etc. Not just in matters of teaching, but in matters of worshipfulness, in how we think of God.

      I hope I’m not overbalancing for this, but reading the NT now, I can find very little reason to spend a lot of time talking about God the Father. We know what our connection to God the Father is via the OT: condemnation and judgement unless there’s a mediator. I think Jesus’ references to the Father are designed to show us his exclusive connection with the Father and therefore our need for a connection with Jesus, not our need for a connection with the Father per se. Thus to know Jesus IS to know the Father, but to try and know the Father directly is to place yourself under condemnation.

      Michael Spencer’s writings on Jesus-shaped spirituality totally gave substance to the problem, and it’s solution, that I’d been struggling with for years. The tagline “God is Jesus” sums it up for me.

  11. I often find when I’m asking a blessing for a meal with other people, I hesitate to use the name of Jesus. I suppose it is for the very reason you suggest. It’s much more comfortable to start off, “Dear Lord,” or “Dear Heavenly Father.”
    Many times, I want to say his name, but settle for the more distant, cosmic addresses.

    I’ve also noticed that whenever an elder at my church refers to the “Lord Jesus” in everyday conversations it jumps out at me and kind of annoys me! Pretty funny (or sad) but I definitely identify with this!

  12. Bill F says:

    Interesting. The church I attend (Southern Baptist) talks a lot about Jesus but not about the Trinity. The theology is not very deep and the message is one note, basically it is “fire insurance”—get saved–avoid hell.

    • Hmm. I was just thinking that we need to be careful of a “Jesus Only” theology and to have a balanced understanding of the Trinity (“understanding” of the Trinity? Ha!).

      I have heard that some churches do go too far with Jesus Only but I thought they were the independent Pentecostal ones. Technically it’s a form of unitarianism although nothing like the current Unitarian Universalist Church. But either way it can become a heresy.

      Balance. I think that’s what’s needed to try to understand God (Father/Son/Spirit). Going too far one way or the other slips us off the edge.

      I still kinda like The Shack. Harmony and community within the Trinity. Nobody arguing about which one does what task.

  13. I’ll play Devil’s Advocate a little bit here…I once invited JJ Heller to sing at a church where I was on staff, only to have the senior pastor tell me a few days before her arrival…”I don’t like her music. I listened to her song samples online, and she doesn’t say ‘Jesus’ enough. A good Christian song will always say ‘Jesus’ a minimum of three or four times.”

    I pointed out that several of the hymns we had done during worship over the past few weeks rarely, if ever mentioned the name, including “Amazing Grace” (zero mentions), “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” (one mention), “At the Cross” (zero Jesus, one mention of Christ), and “God will lift up your head” (zero).

    I believe that we’re creative beings, fashioned after a creative God. Songs are creative works of art…sometimes you might have to sit and ponder and reflect in order to find the profound meaning within…but the same can be said of Holy Scripture itself. For example, we find the Trinity in Abraham’s visiting angels, not because Scripture explicitly states that’s who they are, but because we reflect and find understanding. I think that some of our lyrics can also call for us to reflect and find deeper meaning, and that this is okay.

    Wholeheartedly agree that our preaching needs to be more Jesus-centered! Less feel-good, fix your marriage, manage money better, have better sex sermons…more Jesus!

    By the way, I had him listen to JJ’s songs in their entirety, and he heard the word “Jesus” enough times to consent to her coming to play. It was a phenomenal concert.

    • Why and where do people come up with their ideas anyways??

      Is my Bible missing the book that talks about good Christian songs will use the Name of Jesus 3 or 4 times?

      People are just silly sometimes.

    • There is no litmus test for the “proper” number of mentions of Jesus’ name. And, as you have pointed out, there are a number of great hymns that don’t mention his name at all. But the theology–the way for us to think of God–in those hymns is still rich, it still points us to the Gospel. A majority of the modern “worship” songs point us to … us.
      But this is not a discussion of worship music. We are looking at why Christians have a problem with the name of Jesus. Perhaps it is because we want the focus on us?

      • Point taken. I agree that regardless of lyrics, our music should point us to Christ…not to how we feel about Jesus…but to Jesus Himself. There are tons of songs out there that are honestly, just filled with bad theology.

    • In the Christian high school I attended, the teacher who directed the school choir would change the lyrics of secular songs (and even some Christian songs) if she felt they were not explicitly “Christian” enough. In her mindset, this meant how many times the names of God, Jesus, etc. were mentioned. I understood where she was coming from, but it did violence to the lyrics and undermined the intent of the songwriters.

  14. David Cornwell says:

    This reminds me of a funeral about 4 or 5 years ago of my brother-in-law. He and my wife’s sister had attended a charismatic Methodist church for a few years, then when the pastor left, they decided to switch to a Pentecostal Church. At the funeral, the Hispanic Pentecostal preacher told an interesting story that struck home. He told this in humor and not in a preachy or condemnatory tone. The gist of the story is that Methodists always pray in the name of Christ, and very seldom in the name of Jesus. So now whenever I listen to a pastoral prayer on Sunday morning, this always comes to mind (though I’m no longer Methodist). It made me stop and think about what it is that makes us uncomfortable with the Name. And I must agree with Jeff.

    As an aside here: This Pentecostal Church is an amazing place, even though I disagree with some of the theology. They take very seriously the importance of caring for the widow and orphan, and go about this in an organized, caring, and individualized way as part of the ministry of the church. In a circumstance we are going through now they have helped ease a great burden, and actively care for a loved one. They are near Frankfort, Kentucky, we in northeast Indiana. I love the people, the pastor, and the church. And the work they do, they do in the Name of Jesus.

  15. I always love your posts Jeff!

    I used to use Jesus Christ as a cuss word. Out of complete irritation or frustration. JEEEEZUS CHEEERIST, you know the kind. And this coming from a preacher’s kid who thought it was so cool back in the day to say the regular ol’ 4 letter ones since it was cool and unchurch like. But never, never, never would I use the name of the Lord in vain.

    Um. Yes. I did. And plenty at that! Funny what you can become accustomed to or numb to when you’ve been in the world a while. So, I say that to say this: When I started reading my Bible, praying and such……..The Name of Jesus came off my tongue wrong, with a twinge of guilt, shame and regret. It seems the more He showed me Himself, in all His glory and righteousness, the worse it got. I come from Baptist Fundamentalism, guilt and the inability to be perfect runs through my DNA, but PRAISE JESUS it don’t matter anymore! Why? He redeems!

    • cermak_rd says:

      I have to admit, I also had this habit of using the name as an expletive. Which was perfectly socially acceptable for a Christian. At least I was only being disrespectful of my own religious tradition. Now that I am a Jew, it is not socially acceptable (especially to myself) to use it because now I’m being disprespectful of other people’s religion.

      It’s a hard habit to break. I’ve fallen back on darn it, dang it and the such which amuses my Chicagoan friends and co-workers to no end. Probably because I also say them with a Chicago accent.

  16. I think you are right about this, both from observation and personal experience in my own life which is a shameful confession. I think the aspect of his earthiness that unsettles me the most is that is so like us in his humanity, including getting hungry and smelly and dirty that I can have a hard time acknowledging with Mary, “my Lord and my God” – the one who is also so unlike us. “God” in heaven is easier to acknowledge and worship than the God who stands with us and among us. Even this example of Mary was of the resurrected Christ. But we also know she related to him in this way before his resurrection.

    • An interesting take Mick, as I always viewed God as being the far away mean daddy who can never be pleased.

      And then came Jesus……His earthiness, humanity, humility and showing of the Father is what made it different. For me atleast.

      Jesus, in His showing of the Father in Heaven was much less scary than God.

      Now, Him playing down and dirty with my life has been scary and frustrating and awesome and freeing…….but I always viewed God as the One Who was unsettling. Still do sometimes. Like I have this belief that I am totally okay with Jesus because of…..well…..Jesus. But God, I can still get freaked out that I’ve made him mad cuz I sad shit too many times today.

      Old habits, I find, are dying hard. Like being afraid of God. And saying shit. LOL

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And then came Jesus……His earthiness, humanity, humility and showing of the Father is what made it different. For me atleast.

        Including God having to squat and take a dump behind a bush alongside a dirt road in Palestine.

        Including God getting snuffed as a political prisoner.

  17. steve h says:

    Is the other word “sin”? I’m just guessing here, but you did say two words Jeff. Sin is normally the other word I think of that makes some squirm.

    Great post, thanks.

  18. I think sometimes we shy away from Jesus precisely because He is so person-al. (Hyphen deliberate) God is safe because He’s a faceless power to our way of thinking or trying to visualize Him. But Jesus was here on Earth among us — we have a face, or at least a purported face, to put with Him. That makes Him REAL. And if He’s real, and we claim to be His followers, then He has expectations of us and He means to change us just like He said He did. And that gets scary because deep down most of us like ourselves the way we are just fine. Change hurts and we’d rather not, thank you very much.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      CJ, this is the flip side of the Incarnation — God manifesting and staying manifested on a one-to-one human scale.

  19. You are right on with respect to most evangelical churches most of the time. Worship, sermons, conversations, the whole shebang pretty much. Paragraph 2 pretty much nailed it.

    My church rarely mentions the name of Jesus, or any content having to do with him. I’ve been in a struggle of late about what to do. When I bring it up I get blank stares, for the most part. Once someone said “yeah, but we don’t wanna become religious or something.” I couldn’t believe how completely bassackwards this thinking was, but I think it’s pretty pandemic in independent, non-denom evangelical churches: the greatest evil is “religion” and if we get too interested in Jesus himself, we’ll become “religious” instead of the awesomely vaunted free-thinking, free-worshipping, not-catholic thingy that we’re supposed to be, or whatever. That I’m disappointed with where I am is an understatement. I’d rather hang out at a dumpy bar with a bunch of sleazeballs of questionable character than at a church where Jesus doesn’t matter.

    And yes, as others have pointed out on this thread, scrubbing the name of Jesus and any real Gospel-content allows us to talk about how awesome God thinks we are, and, basically, worship our worship. That, I think, is our end goal when we decide to replace Jesus with conceptual, esoteric nonsense about “God” and “the Lord”. It’s to make a big deal out of ourselves and our spiritualness.

    In the end, it’s moralistic drivel. Anyone who denies his name before men will be denied by him before the Father. I don’t know how long til I blow my lid on someone at church, but I appreciate having like minded people in a place like this.

    Nate

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Once someone said “yeah, but we don’t wanna become religious or something.”

      Talk about Missing the Whole Point of the Exercise…

  20. Richard Hershberger says:

    “Why is it that Christians of all people have so much trouble with the name of Jesus?”

    Hmm… I have never observed this.

    “Do you think I’m wrong? You think I am overstating my case? Visit just about any evangelical church you like this coming Sunday.”

    Ah, I see: You weren’t writing of Christians in general. You were writing of Evangelicals.

    Very high on my list of Annoying Habits of Evangelicals is the common tendency to use “Christian” and “Evangelical” as synonyms. This at best is thoughtless and parochial. At worst it is profoundly offensive.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      And in reality, it hijacks the name “Christian” to mean Evangelicals and ONLY Evangelicals — the good, the bad, and especially the ugly.

  21. When I talk with people I am always listening to see if they will say anything about Jesus. Sadly, I rather have this disease of speaking about myself also. On the other hand one does not want to sound hypocritically pious to anyone. Most often I can say something about Jesus when I apply something he said to the situation: “Jesus said this…; Jesus told this parable about that…” Also I can say that he forgives my sins and someone else’s, since offense always abounds and we constantly have good reasons to talk about forgiveness.

  22. know the basics of Christianity

    What is christianity?

    • Josh in FW says:

      Yeah, that whole Jesus is God, yet only one person of the Trinity has got to be a difficult concept for Muslims/Moslems. It is difficult for Christians too.

      So what is it that you hope to accomplish by repitively linking to this blog.

  23. I can’t speak to in-church, our church is very Jesus and gospel centered.

    In greater american society though, I completely agree. “God” is a word that leaves the meaning to the imagination of the hearer, it is a word that can connotate any higher power someone believes in. Like the word prayer, it is generic and socially acceptable. It even has a homogenized contrary equivalent: Goddess. Goddess lets one be edgy and rebellious while allowing the peace that fuzzy definition brings. These words suit this purpose so well, they don’t even demand the speaker define for himself who he’s speaking about! It allows everyone in a conversation to coast along without conflict or conviction.

    Jesus Christ, however, is the image of the invisible God. He isn’t fuzzy at all, but rather a sharply defined character with well documented speeches and qualities. His existence is a historical reality. Whereas someone might rebut a point about God with, “I don’t believe he would do or say that thing”, Jesus’ ministry is well recorded. You can disagree with him, you can disbelieve him, but you can’t just make up your own version of him. He is thus a huge stumbling block in conversation in our relativist age. He is the image of the invisible God, when so many want only to discuss ultimate realities in the most ethereal of fashions.

    That isn’t to say people can’t say stupid things or attribute untrue things to Jesus, because they do! But his solid reality means that rather than being based merely on a series of hazy opinions, their argument now rests on facts that can be argued on their own merit.

    Without the Son, you can believe in just the Father and be a deist. You can believe in a holy and divine spirit as a panentheist. But Son, Jesus, claims to be made of the same stuff of the Father, to know and reveal his true character. By his existence, if he spoke truth, he tears down the false notion of a far away father God. Jesus also defines the Holy Spirit, not just in what it is like, but in it’s unity of purpose with himself and the father than he has revealed. To believe the words of Christ, you are signing up to a host of consequences of the truth he taught, and also to the rejection of so much idolatry and falsehood. You are signing up to worship a God that doesn’t need definition or even validation from humanity, but reveals himself and adjust US so we might have a relationship with him.

    That isn’t how our society rolls, thus it has fallen outside of etiquette to bring it up. But I have found in my own life that actively combatting the temptation to generalize God in converation has had the unexpected benefit that those conversations that are not shut down quickly are much more fruitful for it.

    • JoanieD says:

      You make excellent points, Tokah. One of my favorites lines you write about Jesus is, “He is the image of the invisible God, when so many want only to discuss ultimate realities in the most ethereal of fashions.”

  24. dumb ox says:

    Cultural warriors drape themselves in the name of Jesus as much as the American flag. It’s disheartening, because if you don’t agree with them, then you are not on the side of Jesus. I felt that very strongly today: feeling very alone in the midst of a national day of prayer event.

    • cermak_rd says:

      But it’s not really a National Day of Prayer event. It’s an Evangelical Day of Prayer Event. When I think of real National Prayer Events I think of the memorials after 9/11 that had Preachers, Priests, Lamas, Rabbis, Priestesses et al representing the grand religious diversity present in the nation.

  25. I’ll venture this reason american christians shy away from the name of Jesus…. he was soooo unamerican!

    If he came to live in our culture, (especially in the evangelical ghetto/subculture which is so desperately trying to be culturally attuned), I think He would rock the boat too much, He’d be brazenly counter-americanized christian culture; people would not be able to handle it and subconsciously they sense that now…hence the discomfort. They know He would show them up…as being more concerned about other things (like the american ‘dream’ or cultural dominion, etc) than about Him.

  26. This is a very minor concern. Our Lord Jesus Christ (and the Father and the Holy Spirit) are mentioned all over our Liturgies. But, you will rarely find a mention of just “Jesus.” The high respect we have for Our Lord means that we almost always tend to mention him with an honorific. This would be akin to the same way that one would not tend to approach the Queen of England to call her “Elizabeth,” or–heaven forbid–“Betty.” It is a matter of respect not a matter of avoiding the name.

    As Americans we tend to take so much pride in our egalitarianism that sometimes we get a little short on honor and respect. We need to watch that.

  27. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    He healed people who seemed to be content in their distress and disease. He cast out demons, one time destroying another’s livelihood by sending the evil spirits into a herd of pigs that went sailing over a cliff. He scared a servant silly by telling him to take a pitcher of washing-water to the host of a wedding to drink.

    He did outrageous things. Made everyone’s day a bit more surreal.

    Jesus became a name associated with miracles—free food, coins in the mouths of fish, dead people suddenly undead—but also with crazy talk.

    Jayne Cobb: “That’s Crazy Talk.”
    Doc Simon: “Then let’s talk crazy.”

  28. I identify as a “follower of Jesus”. Occasionally someone will ask me if I am a Christian and I explain that I identify as a “follower of Jesus” because I do not identify with everything and everyone that are identified by the term Christian. Church people rarely understand what I’m talking about. Surprisingly, almost everyone else gets it immediately.

    Most people I know do not follow Jesus, but admire Jesus just as much as they dislike the church. I don’t sprinkle my conversations with the name of Jesus, nor do I shy away from it. When in conversation with a few people who I know have been especially burned by their church experiences, I use Jesus name only to answer their questions. So far, no one I know has a problem with the name of Jesus. But the words “Christian” and “church” can be very upsetting for some people because of negative experiences they have had with people and groups who self-identify using those terms.

  29. You have a point- I think that people prefer “God” because it seems more user-defined. For a Muslim, God is viewed as Allah; Hindus think of Shiva, Jews of our God, but WITHOUT a Son. Using the Name “Jesus” immediately clarifies: yes, we’re talking about the CHRISTIAN God, Who sent His SON, neither is there salvation by any other, for there is none other name under Heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved. It’s less politically-correct. People have been trying to redefine “God” for years- New Agers even call themselves god at times. Using the Name of Jesus washes all pretension away, and clarifies what we mean. Also, “Jesus” has a level of spiritual authority invested in it that just “God” alone (as a word) doesn’t have: the disciples cast out devils not in the name of God, but with the Name of Jesus. Even demons know the difference- and the Name of Jesus terrifies them, because it reminds them of their defeat at the cross.