The other day I heard something that I often hear in various Christian circles.
“My husband and I have a heart for bringing Jesus to people,” someone said.
And, I can appreciate the sentiment behind the remark.
But, bringing Jesus to people?
Whenever I hear that line, I tend to shudder just a bit. Kind of like when someone says, “I have a word from the Lord for you.” Usually my instinct is to duck.
I understand that certain expressions are just this- expressions. Euphemisms. Aphorisms.
Still, since when did anyone ever actually “bring” Jesus to people?
I love how Rob Bell muses in Velvet Elvis that Jesus would be awfully “heavy” to carry. Sure, Jesus tells us, “take my yoke upon you;” but I’m pretty sure Jesus is not talking about evangelism or discipleship here; I think he’s talking more about finding rest for our own weary souls.
Actually, I’m at a loss to think of another place in Scripture where one of the disciples “brings” Jesus to people, by way of an introduction. Worried parents summon Jesus to heal their sick children. The disciples consult Jesus when they’re stressing out about what to feed the crowds.
But in most cases Jesus is already there. In the midst of things. The disciples don’t need to go find Jesus and bring Jesus to the scene of need.
I’m struck in fact by how rarely it is the disciples who do the summoning of Jesus. Often the folks who summon Jesus are just ordinary people outside Jesus’ inner circle of followers who have needs. Their son is demon-possessed. Or, their daughter has died. Or, their friend is paralyzed.
And this sort of thing happens often with Jesus. People get in some sort of trouble and discover that Jesus has been there all along or just shows up when they call, right when they most need Him.
This has been true in my own life, too.
The only time I can think of in Scripture that a disciple actually brings Jesus anywhere- feel free to correct me!- is when Judas, the disciple who betrays Jesus, hands Jesus over to the chief priests.
Most of us know what happens next.
No mass conversions or crowds lining up to be baptized in the Jordan River. No dazzling testimonies about how Jesus transformed Jane’s life or put Bob’s marriage back together, so that Bob and wife lived “happily ever after.” What happens next is just a nasty crucifixion next to a couple of common criminals.
When resurrection does happen, the news of its happening is more of a trickle than some dramatic, over-night transformation of the world.
That’s when Jesus tells his followers to go share the good news.
And notice that Jesus Himself never says “go bring me to others.” I suppose that’s either because he’d be asking us to do the impossible, or he’d be telling us to hand Him over to be crucified all over again.
The alternative, thankfully, is a whole lot less grave. We can simply talk about how Jesus has shown up in our own lives when we most needed Him, or in the everyday messiness of living. We can bear witness to the God who is always on the move and always one step ahead, even as this God is also with us.
Christ above me. Christ below me. Christ before me.
But if Christ is under my arm and I’m carrying Him like I would a Bible or a bag of groceries, I may want to ask myself if He really is Christ or just another idol that I’ve let hang around.
Stay tuned later this week for an interview with guest Lance Ford. Ford, who is an organizer of the upcoming Sentralized gathering in *Kansas City, Missouri (September 27-29), recently authored the book, UnLeader: Reimagining Leadership…And Why We Must. You’ll also get to read my review of Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood for the ecumenical publication Sermons That Work.
[*Correction: An earlier version of this post had the location for the gathering wrong. Sentralized will be in Kansas City, Missouri, not St. Louis! Please do not make reservations for St. Louis, because Kansas City is the place to be. And forgive my blonde moment.]