this kind of jesus is too small for me

i know i sometimes sound like i am dissing the evangelical church and its rigid ways.  please know i recognize there are so many good, lovely, beautiful sincere people in conservative traditional churches who truly love Jesus and are serving him in amazing ways.  at the same time,  i am sometimes struck by how pervasive the “truth” culture is in these systems and how dangerous any potential threat to their systematic theology is.   so here’s something that just happened to me this week. when i first read it, i laughed out loud.  then i sat with it a little longer and while a chuckle was still under my breath, another feeling slowly pervaded—sadness.  sadness for how small and limited Jesus can become and how elevated and worshipped “the Bible” is.  this is a letter from a women’s ministry leader who was considering using refresh at their church.   here’s what she says:

“there was  concern that arose when i presented this bible study as a resource…the quoting of oprah and ghandi.  both are good people but not someone we would want to give credit to as knowing or having spiritual insight.  we feel it would stumble some of our ladies especially new believing women who would take it as a stamp of approval, especially of oprah.  our question to you is why you felt a need to include people who are not spiritually minded to reinforce biblical truths? “

i call this throwing the baby out with the bathwater in its finest form. 

gandhi doesn’t have spiritual insight worth passing on.  oprah has nothing worthy to say because she isn’t “christian”.    their words will actually cause someone to stumble.  the message of peace, love, valuing yourself, compassion, dignity,  caring for others, being a good citizen—these i guess aren’t Kingdom principles unless they are attached to someone who professes to be a Christian.  they don’t count if they don’t somehow come with a scripture chapter and verse.  come on!  many systems only feel comfortable if “biblical truth” is shared in a specific way but one  small smack of “worldliness” and we’re getting deceived and in big trouble.  to me,  biblical truth is meaningless if it is just words and not practiced in relationship with each other.     

Jesus is bigger than language.  he is bigger than our stupid systems and rules and man-made craziness.    He can move through people that don’t know a lick about the Bible but know a thing or two about injustice and the poor and marginalized and oppressed.   Jesus understood the times and was able to meet people where they were at.  i’m not saying i believe in everything oprah or gandhi says.  i don’t believe all of what almost anyone says.    

but i know this:  they have something to say and i can learn from them.  to say i can’t is arrogant, rude, and small-minded.  

God made clear—don’t make idols and worship them.  the Bible has become that—an idol that has been elevated above basic human respect and kindness and a belief that God is alive, at work through the people he created whether they say the “right things”  the “right way” or not.   this kind of Jesus is too small for me. 

ps: this cool painting was done by my friend jenny herrick.  yes, God is not in the box.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

11 Comments

  • Kathy ~ Love the post and the painting! What a weird subculture church has become! I feel your pain! On to the better way…

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  • That is just a ridiculous rabbit trail, if you ask me…those same women probably watch Oprah every day. But of course, don’t admit it.

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  • Sorry, that sounded kind of snarky. What I meant, is many women in Christianity value Oprah because she’s a smart lady…but I know in my experience we would
    have never admitted it, because we also knew she might voice support for Osteen or The Secret or A Course in Miracles…so obviously we can’t trust her.

    It’s the all-or-nothing mentality so common in evangelicalism. We are afraid to respect the wisdom of someone who doesn’t hold the same religious values we do…and limiting ourselves that way we can really miss out on some good stuff.

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  • “it would stumble some of our ladies especially new believing women”…
    seems to be a sad assessment of the women they are ministering to–that they cannot be trusted to think for themselves. And I agree that God is too small if he can’t use whatever he wants to reach us. I have been very moved by some not-so-Christian music and movies because they speak truth in creative and beautiful ways or have powerful prophetic messages to the church!

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  • Paul quoted a secular Cretan writer when he talked about one of their own saying that all Cretans worship their bellies. Yes, it is the heighth of small-mindedness to quit listening to others because they have been put into a category of unacceptable. It should come as no surprise when “Christians” get put in that same category. We should fight judgmentalism with love and acceptance, walking in the opposite spirit; instead, we adopt the world’s ways of thinking.

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  • Oh, my kathy…i can’t even imagine, what am i saying of course i can imagine! i’m glad that i don’t have to pretend to believe that crap any more.

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  • glenn – weird subculture is a really good word! i know, out in the real world no one would think twice about it.

    erin – i totally know what you mean on the oprah thing. lots of people embarrassed to admit it but the truth is that some of her stuff is helping them move, change, grow, be better human beings.

    jenny – yeah, it feels so disrespectful to those women, kind of controlling, don’t ya think. censoring…out of fear.

    bryan, the trickiest part for me is always loving the “judgers” instead of just judging them back & more. i am learning

    amber – yep, it’s real! we’re not crazy!

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  • Knowledge and Wisdom I think is different. To know different perspectives and to know how others relate to their world is insightful for all of us. However wisdom is understanding God’s complete truth as a follower of Jesus. I also think there is a huge difference between a Christian and a Follower of Christ. My hope and prayer for the Body of Christ is that we truly walk in wisdom and discern the difference between worldly understanding and what the word of God says. Christians get very legalistic and Followers of Christ take the wisdom they learn from God and live life like Jesus. A Proverb that speaks to me when I listen to others and read the word is this, Proverbs 4:20-27 NKJV. I also like this one – “My son, pay attention to my wisdom; Lend your ear to my understanding, That you may preserve discretion. And your lips may keep knowledge.” Proverbs 5:1-2 NKJV All and all as followers of Christ may we meditate on God’s word night and day so we can truly discern what others are saying about life. Lisa Brown

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  • lisa, thanks for sharing. i do think that the bottom line for me is always “are we living the ways of Jesus or just talking about them?” they are two different things. i love the Bible. i just wish people would be more honest about it, that we are just all giving it our best shot, what we think it means and how we can integrate God’s truth into our lives. i appreciate your comments here…

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  • I’ve heard it quoted (although I don’t know who originally said it): “All truth is God’s truth.”

    I liked that.

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  • Hi Kathy
    I have well understood your intension on your article, when I first read the article I that is this? But when I completely gone through the post I recognized what actually your are forcing it is absolutely correct that God made clear don’t make idols and worship them, the Bible has become that an idol that has been elevated above basic human respect and kindness and a belief that God is alive, this summery words make much clear and its very wonderful feeling reading your article I really thank from my heart for sharing this post.

    Reply

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