Tag Archive: Depeche Mode

Your Own Personal Jesus

personal savior

Cartoon by Dan Piraro

Guest post by ObstacleChick

When I was growing up in a Southern Baptist church and attending Evangelical Christian school, we were told that we should strive to be like Jesus. The pastors and teachers taught us that Jesus was the perfect Son of God, that he was part of the Trinity so therefore God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit were one but separate all at the same time (for the life of me, I could never grasp the concept). Jesus was God’s Son but also God come to earth in human form to live amongst us, to suffer and die for us, to be resurrected and to ascend to heaven with his Father (and the Holy Spirit, but he isn’t talked about as much — he’s just the voice in our head…or heart). Jesus was considered to be born of a virgin, sinless, perfect, and therefore the perfect blood sacrifice to atone for the sins of mankind for those who accepted his sacrifice. We were taught that Jesus was a teacher and a miracle worker. According to the Gospel of John, in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Jesus was the Word. (And here I was thinking Grease was the word according to the musical Grease).

A former member of the church in which I grew up became a pastor. I’m connected to him on social media, and he frequently posts thoughts that he posts on his church’s social media each week. Each post is intended to be instructive to Evangelical Christians. This one was interesting:

One dangerous temptation we all face is the powerful tendency to build our own Jesus. I meet the real Jesus in the Christian faith and He reveals Himself in the Bible. He convicts me to turn from sinful habits or attitudes or relationships I’m not sure I want to give up. He keeps leading me out past my comfort zone and calling me to grow in Him. So, I just take the words and the qualities of Jesus that I agree with, that seem to confirm what I already think and do, and I ignore and leave out the rest. Voila: my own Jesus, who thinks like me! My Jesus condemns your sins but isn’t too concerned about mine. My Jesus doesn’t care whether I’m faithful to his church, etc. J.D. Greear: “What we must avoid at all costs is editing Jesus, forcing Him into a mold where He answers our questions the way we like. This is not worship of God; it’s worship of ourselves. And it’s the greatest substitute for true faith.” The problem with following your Jesus is that you miss the life and joy of following the real one. Plus, the one you stand before in judgment will not be the one you created for yourself. Make sure you’re growing to look like Jesus, not just trying to make Jesus look like you.

Modern Christians’ concept of Jesus is taken from the books of the New Testament, mostly from the canonized gospels (I had never heard of the non-canonized gospels until I took a religion course in college – I was stunned that there were writings that weren’t canonized). Most modern biblical scholars believe that these gospels were written decades after the death of Jesus. Certainly there are no surviving accounts that were written in Jesus’ lifetime by eyewitnesses. Most likely the stories about Jesus were passed along by word of mouth from one person to another. Have you ever played the game “telephone” at a party? Here is how it works. A player whispers a sentence or phrase to the next player, who then must whisper the phrase to the next player, and so on, until the last player says out loud what he or she heard. It is rare for the message to arrive completely intact. In fact, this is part of the fun — to see how the sentence or phrase morphs as it is passed along from one player to another. Some players will intentionally change the phrase to make it funnier. Others just don’t hear it properly so they try to say what is closest to whatever they think they heard. If people at a party have a difficult time repeating a single phrase accurately, how much more difficult must it be to repeat an entire story accurately? So how do we know that the stories told in the Gospels reflected the “real” Jesus? And we’re not even taking into account the different ways each gospel writer presented Jesus.

Additionally, as twenty-first century citizens of a (mostly) free country enjoying creature comforts of indoor plumbing, air conditioning, and immediate access to information through technology, how can we understand what it was like to be a first century Middle Eastern man who was most likely illiterate and who didn’t even know that the world was not flat or that we live in a heliocentric solar system or even what a solar system is? Archaeological finds have shown what architecture was like, and what types of implements people used, and surviving ancient writings can give us an indication of what the educated and literate may have known, but it is difficult for us to comprehend what first century lives of ordinary people must have been like.

So, don’t we all create our own personal Jesus? We listen to what our pastors and teachers say about him. We read about him in the canonized gospels. We read cute memes on social media about Jesus – Jesus as a lamb, Jesus loving all the little children of the world, Jesus as the one who carries us across the sand when we’re too weak to carry ourselves, etc. Some people are drawn to the sweet, wise, meek teacher. Others are drawn to the miracle worker. Yet others like the badass Jesus, the one who got angry and ran the money-changers out of the Temple.

Let me conclude this post with the lyrics from the song Personal Jesus by Depeche Mode:

Reach out and touch faith
Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who cares
Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who’s there
Feeling unknown
And you’re all alone
Flesh and bone
By the telephone
Lift up the receiver
I’ll make you a believer
Take second best
Put me to the test
Things on your chest
You need to confess

I will deliver
You know I’m a forgiver
Reach out and touch faith
Reach out and touch faith
Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who cares
Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who’s there

Feeling unknown
And you’re all alone
Flesh and bone
By the telephone
Lift up the receiver
I’ll make you a believer

I will deliver
You know I’m a forgiver
Reach out and touch faith
Your own personal Jesus
Reach out and touch faith
Reach out and touch faith
Reach out and touch faith
Reach out reach out
Reach out and touch faith
Reach out and touch faith

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What was your own personal Jesus like?