In the past couple of months I have found myself responding to a new set of critiques. It has to do with the use of the word “Jesus.” The first incident happened in response to a proposal for a new church start. One of the people reviewing the proposal noticed that Jesus wasn’t mentioned. A few weeks later I received some emails expressing concern that DOOR’s new website didn’t have enough Jesus language. This summer many of our DOOR locations are focusing on race. In light of all the violence committed against our brothers and sisters of color, it seemed like an appropriate focus. So far the major critique is that staff are not mentioning Jesus enough.
I take these critiques seriously. Today I spent some time reflecting on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). As Jesus is bringing the sermon to a close he makes a very interesting statement, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
Is it possible that Jesus doesn’t really care how much we do or do not use his name? If all we do is talk about Jesus, but don’t confront our neighbor flying the rebel flag, have we really done anything? Believing in Jesus is mostly about doing. Francis of Assisi is credited with saying, “preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”
I can’t help but wonder if the “Jesus police” take up their cause because doing something is too difficult. It is much easier to count how many times Jesus is used in a website or a sermon than to live as if black lives really matter.
The church has worked long and hard at separating Jesus from justice. This has helped to make Christianity accessible, individual, and nice. The problem with this separation is that it is not biblical. It is not possible to separate the story of salvation from justice. Talking about Jesus and ignoring justice is simply sin.