American Jesus

American Jesus

By: Deborah Lionne

Photo Credit: Jesus Daily

Would Jesus be welcome in a typical American town, today? Would I recognize Him? What would He look like? How would He dress? What kind of car would He be driving? Where would He stay? Who would He hang out with?

My town is full of churches of all kinds. Most of the business owners are either pastors or members of of these churches. The majority of people in town attend one of these places of worship. But I wonder, do we worship an "American Jesus" – the famous public icon of Christianity – or do we really KNOW the Son of God?

The Man I read about in Isaiah 53 is an ordinary looking guy. He blends in with the crowd. He's willing to be overlooked, mistrusted, disbelieved, mocked, and beaten to a pulp. He's not out to build a name for Himself or a big ministry.

The Man I read about in John 13 is a lowly guy. He takes the lowliest job, that of the lowest of servants, and He washes dirty feet.

In other parts of Scripture I watch Him avoiding crowds. He intentionally turns non-believers away. He's not exactly "seeker-friendly".

He doesn't preach much but He tells a lot of stories. His stories make the institutional church leaders angry a lot of times – most of the time. He doesn't preach the same sermons they do. He's really different. Radically different.

In Matthew 7 he flat out tells people to watch out and avoid the preachers whose lips drip with charm, intelligence, and even operate in signs, wonders, and miracles. They've got ministries, sometimes with their own name in the title, that use His Name to sponsor their works but in the end, He tells them to get lost and closes the door in their faces. They never knew the Real Jesus.

So we've got two Jesus' in the world: Jesus the Icon and Real Jesus.

And I wonder, what would happen if the Real Jesus showed up today, in my town? So I observed some local happenings.

A middle-aged woman is parked at the local RV park. It's owned by a Christian pastor and missionary. She doesn't have an RV, just an old beat up van. Two huge malamutes are tied up at a picnic table. The hood of her van is open and a tall, lanky man is bent over her vehicle, pulling and tugging at things inside the engine.

He's a homeless man, himself, so he empathizes with this woman's plight. Parts need to be ordered and it takes three days for them to arrive, so this woman cannot leave the RV park. The Christian owner walks to and fro, past this woman several times a day. He never says a word, not even a greeting.

Sunday morning comes and he gathers his flock by the poolside for an outdoor service. He preaches on the amazing love of God – a truly good message. Afterward, all the people walk past this woman, who is obviously stranded. Smiling, they walk right by on their way to lunch. After all the people have left, the pastor, also, walks right by and enters his elegant mansion, just a few paces away.

Photo Credit

But there is one man who skips lunch in order to feed the lonely one.

The homeless man. I watch him. He knows the lady is hungry. She has dog food but no food for herself. He takes the few dollars he owns and drives three miles to McDonalds. He returns with Dollar Menu items and she is grateful. Like a mama bird he does this for her several times during her 3-day stay.

Meanwhile, the pastor-missionary-RV park owner walks by, several times a day… he doesn't acknowledge the woman's presence, for that might make him responsible to get involved?

On the other side of town there is another mansion, also owned by a Christian family. They own many of the town's businesses… hotels and restaurants and spas.

Behind the scenes they exploit their employees.

I watch as one lady struggles to work at the front desk of one of their hotels. She is the only employee in the entire 52-room hotel, working the 3-11 shift. She washes and folds all of the laundry, vacuums all of the hallways and public rooms, dusts and cleans, empties trash, shovels snow, all while answering the mobile phone and taking reservations, checking guests in and out, and performing customer service. She files, does bookkeeping, and performs the nightly audit. She is also in charge of security and must continually watch the parking lots and the security cameras. In her spare time she takes care of the pool and spa. She smiles at everyone and lends a listening ear to the broken people. She consoles the grief-stricken ones who have arrived in town for funerals. There is very little time to drink a swig of water let alone eat a meal. No breaks. Not even to use the bathroom for herself. She is constantly surveilled via cameras with audio recording her every move.

If she doesn't perform well, or if she slows down, her hours are suddenly reduced. She can't pay her rent if her hours are reduced, so she works faster. She runs through the halls, up and down stairs. The maid's carts must be stocked and there is no elevator. She runs faster to complete all her tasks. Nevertheless, her hours are reduced – suddenly – no explanation. The owner suggests she take out a loan from him.  But she knows better. Other employees have warned her about the "loan shark" business. Better to go cold and hungry than to be owned.

She leaves the hotel after work, one wintry night. It's around midnight, very cold and dark. Her truck won't move out of park. The gear shift is broken. She calls the same homeless man, the same one you met earlier in this story. He arrives 10-minutes later and disappears under the driver's side of the vehicle. The truck rolls right over this man, yet he keeps working and finishes the job. He doesn't charge her a dime, but limps back to his own truck, in severe agony.

The hotel does a good business and the owner is well respected at his church. They love his donations to charity. He is a bright, glowing example of generosity and charity that the pastor wishes all his parishioners would emulate.

Another hotel owner enters our story. I watch as an abandoned wife arrives in town. Her husband has just announced he wants a divorce and she doesn't know where to go or what to do. A friend directs her to the pastor/missionary's hotel. She books a room for a month while her truck, which needs extensive repairs, is fixed. She's so broken she hides in her hotel room, crying most of the day and night.

The hotel owner, a Christian pastor and missionary, sees her vulnerable position and offers aide. He tells her, "God told me to offer you a job and a place to live. Would you like to work the night shift in exchange for an apartment here at the hotel?"

She lifts her head in hope that maybe there are good people in the world! It sounds like God has sent an angel to help her, so she accepts. The same day she moves into the apartment, the Christian pastor says to her, "I'm so happy you're here. Can you stay for 20-years at least? I want you to be my spiritual wife!" Trapped like a pet canary in a bird cage, she senses there is no polite way to get out. So she just says no. He doesn't trust her to keep his secret. He retaliates with accusations and slander. She is silenced and is not allowed to say a word in her defense.

She is weak and vulnerable. He is strong and well respected. She is a stranger to town – he is a very successful Christian business man.

The homeless man shows up on scene again. He is a hotel employee, himself, and he's been watching the whole situation unfold in front of his eyes and ears. He speaks up for the woman and demands the hotel owner tell the truth. The hotel owner said he cannot, for he would lose everything – his church, businesses, family – everything. So he fires the homeless man. And they tell lies about him, too. The hotel owner's wife is a doctor and she warns people that the homeless man is a "psychopath" and to stay away from him.

They trust her word, the authority of "doctor" backing her.

This couple are well known for their extraordinary acts of kindness and charity. They visit prisons, donate thousands and thousands of dollars to well known ministries, and they visit third world countries, bringing financial relief to destitute churches.

The abandoned wife had been attending a local Bible study and making friends with local Christian leaders. When the members heard what the hotel owner and his wife were saying, they immediately shunned her. They refused to listen to her story and kicked her out of fellowship.

She became homeless and jobless on top of her desperate position of being abandoned by her husband, a healing evangelist.

By then, the lady whose van had broken down had found a broken down trailer in a nearby town, next to a hayfield. She invited the abandoned wife to live with her. The homeless man hooked up his Winnebago in the cow pasture. The three formed a community of faith.

"Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there I AM in their midst," said Jesus.

Outside the town, with no toilet or running water, they learned how to emerge from "broken" and to rebuild their lives on Love and Faith and Hope. They learned to accept their differences and to embrace what really matters: unconditional love.

The homeless man started his own handyman service business. The lady in the broken down van persevered and started her own massage therapy business, working out of her van. The abandoned wife started to write and began her online business. All three continue to passionately pursue Love with all of their hearts, souls, minds, and strength.

They met the Real Jesus. Rejected. Slandered. Betrayed. Even crucified. Dead but more alive than ever before.

If you meet this Man today – the Real Jesus – you will recognize Him as the One who befriends the marginalized.

He is the voice of the widows, orphans, and misfits. That's where He hangs out.

I could tell you so many more stories of the American Jesus – the one most churches worship. This Icon who is good, really good… but who will not lay down his life for anyone.

"You will know them by their love for each other," said the Real Jesus, "And this is love, when you lay down your lives for your friends."

What makes this kind of love different, I ponder…

  • Is it smiling at each other while passing by the hungry woman whose van is broken down, right in front of you?
  • Is it making a lot of money to donate to charity while exploiting your employees?
  • Is it saving your own religious face so that you look good while destroying the reputation of a righteous woman who is a stranger in town?
  • Is it fixing a van… fixing a truck… feeding a hungry woman… standing up and speaking up for justice, even at the cost of your own job…

Today, Jesus – the Real Jesus – showed up in my town.

He wasn't a Christian at first. But I helped him to know Christ and I baptized him in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The pastor refused to baptize him because he wouldn't stop speaking up for justice, so I did. He is my friend. The Real Jesus shines and lives through him. The Real Jesus talks through him. The Real Jesus walks through him.

My dad once told me that if you have one good friend, you are a wealthy person.

Isn't that what it's all about? Just being a good friend?

Today I will watch again… I'm looking for His friends. They are rare people. They are the kind of folks I want to hang around with. I want to be like them.

The ones who just want to hang out with the Real Jesus… the One who is rejected a lot, usually by the local churches… the One who gets slandered and accused… the One who hangs out with all the 'wrong' sorts of people… the One who gets into so much trouble every time He opens His mouth.

The One who isn't seeking to build a big-name organization… the One who spends a lot of time with His Father, alone and in private, praying.

Oh God, teach me to pray like the Real Jesus. Teach me to walk with the Real Jesus. Teach me YOUR ways and help me to unbuckle this Christianity that reeks of lies and seduction and deception and to belt myself with the Truth. Amen.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

gold price October 15, 2012 at 1:20 am

These questions get to the heart of who Jesus really was. Some believe he was merely a great moral teacher; others believe he was simply the leader of the world’s greatest religion. But many believe something far more. Christians believe that God has actually visited us in human form. And they believe the evidence backs that up.


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