Focus – A Palatable Jesus
by Lieutenant Amanda Reardon –
I know a man (let’s call him “Sam”) whom many would say is a “saint.” Volunteering long hours at a local church, this well-educated, sophisticated man doesn’t mind doing the most menial of tasks day after day. He does it, he told me, because God has been good to him and he wants to “give something back.” Sensing a certain vagueness in what Sam said, I probed a bit to find what his relationship with Christ really is. His nebulous answers made it clear to me that he has never sought Christ as personal Savior from sin. I spoke to the church pastor about it. He was also quite evasive. It would seem that he needs Sam’s help so much, he doesn’t want to scare him off by confronting him with the gospel. Sam lives with his girlfriend, his theology is a bit loose, and the pastor doesn’t want to rock the boat.
Like many people I have encountered, Sam has convinced himself that it is enough to simply be fond of Jesus and to do good deeds on his behalf. Such an idea is far more palatable than the notion of surrendering oneself completely to Christ, making him master. The whole world, I would guess, would gladly welcome a Savior who didn’t interfere with our personal lives–a Savior who only asked 20, 40 or even 60 percent of our lives be subjected to his will, but not 100 percent.
There is a true temptation to water down the gospel, to take some of the zing out of the flavor of Christ to accommodate the tastes of mankind. After all, some of the words of Jesus can be difficult to swallow. They are too demanding, too invasive. The disciples of Christ are called to take up crosses, shine as lights, be the salt of the earth, spread the news to all the world…..these are hard sayings.
In some churches and corps there seems to be a trend for the pastor/officer to glaze over the disciplines of Christianity to keep his congregation happy and in attendance. And many church attendees are content to let them do so. Should the sermon be so mild it does nothing to impact lives because the preacher is afraid she might offend someone? Should an officer purpose to entertain rather than to educate? Should people continue in leadership roles who live blatantly sinful lifestyles, out of step with Scriptural precepts?
Jesus did not make himself palatable, even though it cost him disciples. In John 6 Jesus declared himself to be the Bread of Life. He even said, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (vs. 53). In other words, Jesus was saying: “Here I am. Live and in the flesh. If you want to be a part of God’s plan, you must deal with me…up close and personal. Partake of me. Let me become part of you, as your food and drink become part of you. I don’t want to be put at arm’s distance.” The intimacy of “eating” his flesh and “drinking” his blood cannot be denied. Many of his followers found this idea distasteful, and left him.
Jesus made demands on his disciples. Often, they were costly demands. He did not make exceptions for fear of losing followers. God’s plan of salvation and the lifestyle Scripture teaches are not negotiable. And, if you look around you, you will see that those who have been fed a more palatable Jesus are still hungry. When served a watered-down gospel, the seeker remains thirsty.
When I was in college, a respected, elderly professor with an international reputation asked me to lunch. She wasn’t my own teacher, but we were in the same department and had a nodding acquaintance. I was honored and nervous at the thought of eating alone with this icon, and I had no idea why she requested the meal together. But when we sat down over our lunch that day, she looked at me with the wide eyes of a little child. “Tell me about Jesus,” she said.
As it turned out, this woman had attended church her entire life, but no one had ever shared the true gospel with her. No one told her about making a personal commitment to Christ and offering her life to him to mold to his will. She was taught that if she did a few good deeds and said the right prayers, she would be saved. But she longed for Christ. She hungered to know him and to experience the depth of a relationship with him. I saw it in her eyes.
Christ is the Bread of Life, the Living Water. Only he, in all his fullness, can satisfy. Do you know a hungry, thirsty soul?