Without Jesus, apparently, we all “Suck”

What?!

But, on second thought, maybe I should not be too surprised:

In Kyle Idleman’s popular not a fan he states “that the reason that we were put on this planet is to answer this one question,” that being, “What if there really is a heaven and a hell, and where I spend eternity comes down to this one question?”  (p. 21, italics his).

For Kyle, Christianity is about reward and punishment.  Either we will accept Jesus and believe (and so receive the reward of heaven) or we reject Jesus and disbelieve (and so suffer the punishment of hell).  Further, throughout the book Kyle is at pains to emphasize how Christianity “costs” a great deal, such as how Christians should hate everyone else by comparison to how much they love God and how, as a Christian, I should “empty myself of me” to make space for the Holy Spirit. (pp 65 & 95).

So where Christianity is about gaining reward and avoiding punishment, and where loving God means (practically) hating others and effacing myself, it’s not surprising to find something like www.withoutjesusisuck.com (WJIS).  Both exemplify a key notion in evangelical Christianity: at best you’re a problem; at worst you’re worthless.

But this should raise a few questions:

Why would God create something that “sucks”?  Why, indeed, would God love something that “sucks”?  And why would God purportedly die for something that “sucks”?

Now many evangelicals would be quick to interject: “No!  God created us as wonderful, and then we messed it up by sinning.  While we sin we can do nothing right.  And the fact that God loves us so much that God gave up his only son to die for us and take away our sin, that is the wonder and mystery of God’s love that we can never comprehend.”

Yet the upshot of an incomprehensible situation, obviously, is that we can’t figure it out.  So we have only two options: either believe or don’t.  In fact, we are right back with Kyle Idleman’s two choices.  And really, if you can actually believe that God is real, then practically there is no choice: no sane or moral person would choose not to be a Christian.  Pretty nifty how that works, huh?

Not really.  I think it’s crap (and I’m not even Scottish).

First, the idea that God’s love for us is incomprehensible is both bogus and unbiblical.  Bogus because if God’s “love” were completely unrelated to human love then it would be impossible to experience it as love—it would not be “love” in any sense that we know it.  Unbiblical because the Bible is totally clear on this point: in order to be in right relationship with God we can and must experience God’s love, we must “taste and see” God’s goodness 1.  And this experience must, at minimum, be comprehensible and “square with” our general understandings of love.

Second, God loves us now, as we are.  For as I’ve tried to argue elsewhere, sin is not the problem but its symptom.  The problem?  Not being in right relationship with God, and a major part of the solution (along with having better, truer understandings of who God is, who humans are, and how the two should relate) is that we experience God’s love and understand it as such.

Third, it is clear that I can and do act, think, etc., in ways that are good.  Not “good” in some sort of absolute, modernist way—no one is arguing for that.  No, in the same way that Postmodernism never means “absolutely anything goes” (outside of advertisements for pizza toppings), so “doing right things” is not a claim to absolute goodness that challenges either God’s holiness or the necessity of Jesus dying in fulfillment of the covenant.

So you don’t suck, and neither do I.

God loves you, and God loves me. God loves us now, as we really are, and also as we best could be, as seen through the lens of God’s love and God’s truth.

And that’s the T-shirt we need.

Show 1 footnote

  1. Psalm 34: 8 is only one example.

3 thoughts on “Without Jesus, apparently, we all “Suck”

  1. Hey! Is this is a repeat? I thought this entry was deleted forever when it disappeared amd I was glad. That picture kinda puts me off… the girl seems to be somewhat sultry while professing her non-suckingness… it’s almost giving a mixed message with some sorta sexual undertones… Totally weird. Then again, maybe I’m outta my mind and young blond chicks with poofy hair and sexy stances are great ambassadors for our lord Jesus Christ… who am I to judge, really? Look at me! This smacks of a familiar story… maybe I would have had something nasty to say about Mary Magdalene, too. Oh God. Now I feel like a heel… Sorry blond non-sucking girl. I am sure you have no idea that they are objectifying you and using your innocent (well, maybe not so innocent… what do I know) sexuality to sell Jesus t-shirts.

    And maybe, just maybe, because of my judgemental attitude and my un-Jesus like commentary, sadly, I suck…

    I will just have to read this post again… Hmm…

    • Hi Mama Moonbeam,

      Nice to hear from you. Yes, the picture adds another dimension to how warped this perspective is, and I find it bizarre that anyone (particularly a young, sultry-looking woman with poofy hair) would not feel downright stupid wearing something that is, if unintentionally, so sexually suggestive.

      So I guess I think that you’re as fine a person to judge such matters as I am (or anyone is). And as far as Mary Magdelene goes, I think that your judgement of her would be better than you give yourself credit for, were you to take all of the stories about her into consideration. For remember: we typically see the woman in Luke 7:36-50 as Mary Magdelene (“Then turning toward the woman [Mary], he said to Simon [the Pharisee], ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet [a deep insult], but she has bathed my feet with my tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss [another insult], but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil [insult again], but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love.’ “)

      And likewise, at the end of John it is Mary to whom the risen Jesus first speaks, and who first recognizes him as Jesus (John 20:11-18). My hunch is that if we all recognized how much God loves us like Mary recognized and accepted Jesus’ love, there would be no one who could even consider the idea that they “sucked.” God simply does not see us this way, and neither should we.

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