The Name of Jesus


Jennifer Freeman said that she was going to stop blogging, but thank God she hasn’t. Jennifer has been a great supporter of me through the past couple of years and I was glad to see that she was writing about her experiences.

Today she offers an important reflection on her discomfort with folks who freely talk about Jesus. She writes:

I learned from my teen years on up that if someone says the word “Jesus,” I’d better run. Jesus means trouble and pain. It means that I’ll be torn down. It means that I’ll be shamed. It means intrusiveness in the name of God. It means that I’ll be called a name and threatened with hell fire. It means that no one will even try to understand how much I cared that I was gay, that they’ll just decide that it wouldn’t be much trouble at all to just not be that way. Or even if they realize that it’s trouble, they’ll condemn me when I find a lifelong someone to love. They like me better when I feel bad about myself, am unhappy, and needy. They leave when I’m happy and productive as a gay person. I’m pretty certain that others have come to feel the same way that I do now. Some Christians name-drop Jesus’s name so that anything they say is much more powerful.

The sad thing is that I completely understand what she is saying. How often do persons misuse the name of Jesus to justify acts that are unloving or lacking in charity?

One of the realities of Christian practice in this age is that we will have to redeem Jesus from those who use him as a weapon. Regardless of your feelings on ethical issues, Jesus is not a club to use against those pagans whom we don’t like.

More often than not, those who would weaponize Jesus use the name doctrinally rather than attached to practices. Yet, Jesus seemed rather unconcerned with doctrine. That was one of the reasons that he was disliked by the Pharisees who were doctrinally orthodox in their beliefs. Instead, Jesus focused on living the life of faith rather than proclaiming it. That meant that he wasn’t troubled by hanging out with those who the orthodox saw as impure. Jesus lived a faith that was incarnational in its expression, that is, a faith that incarnated the reality of God rather than proclaiming it. That didn’t mean that Jesus didn’t preach and teach, but that preaching and teaching were always rooted in physical expressions rather than philosophical proclamations.

The word for those of us called to ministry is to discern how to redeem Jesus among those who have been wounded by his misuse. How do you think we help folks like Jennifer move through their woundedness by the name of Jesus?

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