It's not just pastors looking for a voice in the local paper who are misusing the name of Jesus as an instrument of shame, when they don't really want to talk about Jesus at all. The world at large - our culture at large - is doing this to us, too.
And we're letting them.
The world often just attaches the name of Jesus to whatever pet project it currently has, creating a dialogue around how Jesus would respond to this or that thing that happens to be making the headlines right now. Sometimes, it's right - it reminds us of the love that we are not showing, but should be. But often, right as we're starting to catch on to how the world is right, they push it just a little further, cut out part of the truth, and create this little shift from conviction to shame...and we follow them right into their trap.
We're seeing this in a number of areas right now, and none of them are comfortable to talk about - precisely because of the way that the world has convinced us that Jesus wouldn't talk about them. He'd just affirm them, love them, and, well, ignore them and move on. So we've been taught that's what we're supposed to do.
We could get into what some of these things look like, but at this point, that would be a distraction from the greater point that I want to make today, which is this: this is precisely the reason why, as Christians, have to be the ones leading the dialogue about Jesus - inside our walls and outside of them.
This is why we have to push for full truth - for conviction - and not for half-truths, shame. This is why we have to push back against pastors who publish articles in local op-ed sections that aren't meant to talk about Jesus at all but only to use His name in vain. This is why we have to put our feet down and declare when someone is misrepresenting the heart of Christ by only including a small part of it. This is why we can't just be so quick to say, "oh, you said Jesus? Then, of course...."
Because not always. Not always of course. Sometimes, absolutely not. And more often than that, not quite.
We have to take back the conversation about Jesus. We have to be the ones to step up and start putting truth - full truth - on the table. We have to stand there when it's complicated and not pretend that it isn't. We have to talk about the things about Jesus that we love and that we agree with...and the things that we still wrestle with. We have to be honest about what we know, what we don't know. What we understand and what we don't understand. And we have to, at every turn, keep making Jesus bigger than we are. We have to keep making Him greater than our limited perspectives and personal prejudices.
It's not easy, but it's what God calls us to do. He wants us to be ambassadors of Jesus; He doesn't want us to make Jesus an ambassador of us.
And what's happened is that we stopped talking about Jesus. We stopped talking about the things about Him that still make us uncomfortable. We stopped talking about the things that challenge us. We stopped talking about the fullness of His truth and started diminishing Him to our smaller things and then...the world started diminishing Him to their smaller things. And now, we're stuck in a place where we're having all of these smaller conversations about Jesus that feel so big. And the reason they feel so big is because we know they are so small. We know they are so limited. We know they aren't hitting at the heart of Him, but it's hard for us to know how to stand up and say, wait a minute; let's make Jesus bigger than this. We've forgotten how to do that.
But we must remember. We must. We have to take back the conversation about Jesus - first among ourselves and then in our world, in our culture. We have to stop letting the world use Him to shame us into something He never intended in the first place. We have to hold onto the full truth with both hands and declare that we're not letting go - not for a headline, not for a cause, not for a pastor with an opinion on these things, not for anything. Not for anyone who doesn't really want to talk about Jesus.
And anyone who does? Let's talk. And let us, as those who love Him and who are loved by Him, lead the conversation and not merely follow it.