When I was a kid we’d drive up to Virginia to see my Greek grandparents on my dad’s side, Papou and Yaya as we called them. (Don’t you even start with me, Southerners. You call you grandparents Memaw, Pepaw, and Shamalamadingdong or whatever.) Papou would take my sister and I to the arcade and then we’d all go to dinner, and Papou would always pick up the check.
I remember multiple times seeing my parents whisper to each other, and then I’d see one of them distract Papou while the other one would head back to the table. I was later informed that they would leave extra money for the tip because Papou didn’t leave enough. The Greeks are a proud people, but apparently we’re not the extravagant type.
I was thinking about this recently and I realized I’ve sometimes used my parent’s extra tip technique when it comes to my faith in God.
By no means do I think I need to be screaming in the streets “Jesus saves.” I just think I’ve sometimes tried to make Jesus cooler and more relevant than he ever intended to be.
I think we should strive for cultural relevancy in the Gospel message we present. It’s fine to do sermon series based off of popular TV shows if that’s your thing. But for me, there comes a line for it all. A line I don’t want to keep crossing.
If I believe what the Bible says, and if I believe that the Word of God is “living and active,” then why should I try to come back behind the words of Jesus and act like, “Ok, he didn’t really mean it like that.” Or, “I know what it sounds like, but it’s easier than it sounds.”
Jesus doesn’t need me leaving extra tips on the table.
Jesus doesn’t need me to be cool or to make him seem more relatable. Jesus doesn’t need me to rephrase what he said so it doesn’t seem as heavy.
We’re dealing with Jesus Christ who said stuff like, “Drink my blood and eat my flesh.” “Take up your cross and follow me.” And who spit in the ground and wiped it on a guy’s eyes.
If I believe what the Bible says, then maybe things need to get a little weird sometimes. There is just no way around it. If you believe in Jesus Christ, then you believe some weird stuff and it will make those who do not believe think you’re nuts at times.
Francis Chan said, “We need to stop trying to domesticate God or confine Him to tidy categories and compartments that reflect our human sentiments rather than his inexplicable ways.”
Again, I’m not saying we need a message of hate and condemnation. We don’t need anything like that at all. I’m just saying Jesus is weird and if we want to know him then we need to get over it.
Jesus turned over tables and ran around with a whip. Jesus said stuff that angered uptight religious people, got laughed at by highly educated people, and that set some broken and desperate people free.
Jesus healed the outcasts no one wanted around. Jesus spoke to hurting women who were ashamed to be seen in public. Jesus stood up for the poor. Jesus called out abuse when he saw it. Jesus went face to face with the oppressors.
If Jesus is not relevant to someone as he is, then me dumbing it down won’t help. My job is to pursue a life of love like he loved and to spread the words he said. My job isn’t to make him cool.
Don’t be afraid of an irrelevant God. Be concerned with how you’ve defined your God.