I have just returned from a trip to the US where I had the privilege of attending a conference or two as well as spending sometime with friends in the mid-west. Our friends live in a university town and had started a wonderful cafe in a building next to their church. This was a great space for the local students to gather, with eclectic furniture, modern local art and fair trade, organic coffee. I remember thinking, “This is about as good as a church can do in creating a safe place for people to hear the dangerous message of Jesus”. I congratulated my friend on their church’s creativity, to which she laughed and said, “Ah, the students still think it wreaks of ‘sneaky Jesus’…”
Apart from being a great band name, “Sneaky Jesus” was a phrase that caught my ear and raised my curiosity. She explained to me that, whilst the cafe presents as a public space with no strings attached, the students inevitably find out that it is run by Christians and immediately put their guard up against, ‘sneaky Jesus’. The urban dictionary defines it like this. “Sneaky Jesus” – A technique used by popular Christian bands to ‘sneak’ Jesus or religious themes into their music. Apparently, these students have grown weary of gimmicks and sales tricks that present as normal public discourse but are actually a sneaky ploy to recruit them to the Christian Club.
It got me thinking about what posture I use in my own life. Do I have an agenda for the people in my world? Am I on the look out for cracks in the conversation where I can ‘sneak’ a bit of Jesus in there? Is it possible for Christians to have genuine friendships without the over-riding compulsion to ‘get them saved’?
Well, to be honest, I have struggled with this. I have no interest in manipulating my friends and yet at the same time, I truly believe that Jesus is the most important person in the universe and one that I would love for them to know. I have come to the conclusion that it is the clubbiness that people object to. I have had people tell me on more than one occasion that they don’t mind Jesus as a person and that they even understand the importance of his death and resurrection but they just don’t want to be known as a ‘Christian’, they don’t want to join that club. It is our posture in the society that they object to. This is much like the situation that the JW’s find themselves in, most people aren’t interested in seriously considering their message because they are too busy trying to work out how to get them off their front porch.
I have decided that I need to drop the obsession with getting everyone to join my club and to start to focus on really living out the WAY of Jesus myself. Didn’t Jesus say something about that, “Take the log out of your own eye first, then you will be able to see well enough to take the speck out of your brothers eye”. If Jesus really spoke truth, then I should find that as I live with and for him that my life should improve in quality. By that I mean I should find greater levels of what everyone is looking for, inner peace, contentment, meaning, purpose, clarity about where I sit in the universe and why. If these things are not growing in me as I follow Jesus then I really have no business inviting others into it. Surely over time the best ideas should float to the top. If forgiving people rather than seeking revenge is really the best idea for humanity then that idea should evidence itself as people practice it. If it truly is better to give than receive, or to love others as you would love yourself then these ideas should become increasingly attractive to people as they see them lived out. Perhaps it is time that we had more faith in the way of life that Jesus called us to live. Maybe, if we spent more time living this way ourselves rather than obsessing about trying to get everyone else to do it we would find that people are much more attracted to Jesus, his Way and his people. I remember a friend of mine once saying that, “Most Christians are far more concerned that everybody else lives like Jesus than they are about living like Jesus themselves”.
Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely believe that Jesus’ ideas are true and life-giving and I hope that all of my friends come to the same conclusion. I just wonder if we need to put a little more faith in the products ability to ‘sell itself’ rather than feeling like we need to help it along with a little coercion….