October 21, 2020

Tuesday in Holy Week: The Abbreviated Jesus

From 2008.

The other day a strange feeling came over me.

Don’t get me wrong about what I’m about to say here. It was just a feeling. I’m not claiming any powers of discernment or certainty.

I got the distinct feeling there’s something wrong with a lot of people who say they are Jesus-followers/believers.

If you want to supply your own vocabulary, like “Aren’t saved” or “aren’t Christians,” do so at your own risk. I’m not saying that. (There’s other blogs for that game, if you are burning to know.)

No, but it was as plain as daylight to me that when I hear a lot of people talk about Jesus, I feel like I am hearing….an abbreviation.

I said abbreviation. A shortened version of the real word. You see the abbreviation, you’re supposed to know what it means. We all agree on the abbreviation.

Don’t we?

We all know what the shorthand version stands for.


Or maybe we don’t.

I’m beginning to get the feeling that when people say Jesus, I can’t trust the abbreviation.

I’m getting the feeling that we are talking about a kind of “mini-Jesus.” A diluted, declawed, demoted savior who is a symbolic representation for a kind of anemic, watered-down, un-Biblical, culturally acceptable Jesus.

I get the feeling that if you move beyond the standard biographical paragraph, you’re going to discover that the Jesus you are hearing about has considerably less to say than Jesus as we meet him in the Gospels.

You are going to discover that he has little or nothing to do with most of the Bible, especially the Old Testament and the more demanding parts of the new.

You are going to discover that there is a remarkable resemblance between the abbreviated Jesus and the current version of political correctness. (Isn’t it unusual how Jesus takes an interest in whatever happens to be the current rage on CNN-MSNBC-CBS-FOX-USATODAY?)

I am not sure this abbreviated Jesus believes in hell.

I actually think the abbreviated Jesus doesn’t like to be bothered with issues of morality, character or behavior. He’s mostly interested in larger political and cultural issues, or your experience at your local church, or how you’re doing in your relationships.

The abbreviated Jesus has quite a bit in common with contemporary “life coaches,” talk show hosts, political apologists, faith-based advocates, teachers of “principles,” community organizers, and family values lobbyists.

The people who talk about the abbreviated Jesus don’t seem to know much about the Bible. Not at all.

But they still have a surprisingly strong opinion about the meaning of all kinds of things Jesus said and did in the Bible.

The abbreviated Jesus can convincingly seem like the real Jesus, until you look and listen closely. Then it appears that he’s lost his laptop, his luggage and his cell phone. So for right now, he is reading it all off the teleprompter.

The abbreviated Jesus doesn’t vary much from the script.

In fact- and this is what really got my attention — the abbreviated Jesus would only get crucified if there were some terrible mix-up.

The abbreviated Jesus is Jesus without the Biblical context, Jesus without church history, Jesus without Jesus theology, Jesus without costly discipleship, Jesus without offensive teaching or mysterious parables. The abbreviated Jesus is so easily explained, so comprehensible and user-friendly that anyone can follow him, even without instructions.

In millions of cases, the abbreviated Jesus is Jesus without the church. He is Jesus who lets you pick your friends, pick your community and pick your comfortable seat. He is OK with whatever your plans are for the weekend. He is not making demands on your time. (He is a major spokesperson for unplugging the fourth commandment.) He is not making any demands on your money that don’t follow your emotions. (He wants you to feel personally fulfilled about whatever you choose to support.)

The abbreviated Jesus seems to always need one more book to really get down to what he actually means.

He has a lot of preachers who understand him, and a lot of churches where his way of doing things has become very popular.

Aside from abortion and gay marriage, the abbreviated Jesus is pretty happy in America. There’s so much for his friends to do and enjoy!

I don’t trust the abbreviated Jesus.

Sometimes, he has been in my house, my head, my heart and my preaching. And I don’t like him.

He is flat. Empty. Easy. Moldable.

He is not full of the Holy Spirit. He is full of us.

Frankly, he seems to be full of….well…..there are words here that my daddy used, which I’m not supposed to use on this blog. If you don’t know what they are, write me. Or ask a farmer who knows the real Jesus.

I am announcing that I’m afraid of the abbreviated Jesus and his followers. I am afraid of his “church,” his books and his kind of “discipleship.”

I am uninviting him from my life and my interactions with other Christians.

I want to know Jesus. The untamed, old school, offensive, mysterious, demanding, awe-inspiring, transformational, life altering, crucified, risen, ascended, revolutionary Jesus.

Spell it out: He is the creator. The mediator. The fulfiller and establisher of the law. His the passover lamb. He is the head of the church. He is the heart and key to Holy Scripture. He is the meal on the table. He is life in the living water. He pours out the Holy Spirit. He is the rider on the white horse. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the eternal God.

He doesn’t need my explanations, endorsements or euphemisms. He isn’t reading my note cards and nodding. He doesn’t tolerate my sin. He’s the life of God for the sin of the world. He’s righteousness, sanctification and holiness. He’s the Kingdom bringer, the executor of judgment, the one who is worthy to open the scroll and read the books. He’s the light of heaven and the conqueror of hell, death, sin and the grave.

He’s the one in whom all history, poetry, story and theology come together into the great I AM. He’s the mystery and the Word that reveals God to all persons. He’s the Gospel itself, the meaning of every message and the open door of God’s mercy.

You cannot abbreviate him.

You fall at his feet and worship. You get up and follow. You die and he raises you on the last day.

That’s Jesus, and I’ve got a feeling a lot of people really don’t have a clue.


  1. You fall at his feet and worship. You get up and follow. You die and he raises you on the last day.

    Just like the Apostles, constantly misunderstanding and misinterpreting him according to our own wishes and desires, following the image in our minds instead of the man right in front of us, constantly being corrected and picked up and carried by him (his cross, you know), again and again, until we die, and are set right and raised, on the last day.

  2. Christiane says

    How did He do it? How did Our Lord stop the men from stoning the woman taken in sin?
    We don’t know exactly.
    We know that He said they had ‘the right’ to do it as it was ‘the law’.
    Then He spoke . . . and said ‘let the one who has never sinned cast the first stone’

    But then He bent down and wrote ‘something’ on the ground and when these angry men who came to kill read it,
    they put their stones down
    and walked away sorrowing . . .

    I want to know what He wrote. Was it a list of their sins?
    I want to know why they were convicted and sorrowing.

    There is a ‘mystery’ about Our Lord that intrigues and makes us want to know ‘more’, to understand ‘more’.
    If we knew what He wrote in that dirt, would we be able to put our own stones down, and become sorrowful instead? Maybe would we never want to pick up stones against another person in the first place?

    He changes everything. Everything.

    Women are still stoned in some countries. In our country it takes another ‘form’, but it is still a cruciform when a woman is abused and sometimes killed . . . . . or abandoned, or forced into the sex-trade at a young age, or expected to stay at home and refrain from college and dating and rely on her father to choose a husband for her, or just remain single for life with no hope for a home of her own and a family of her own. . . . or maybe abused in court where victim-shaming is a particularly brutal form of stoning.

    I want to know and to understand. I grow weary of holding stones to throw. I am tired of being ‘angry’. I want to rest now and find shelter from the storm. and find peace.

  3. Patriciamc says

    Excellent post! It seems to me that the abbreviated Jesus either ignores all rules on sexual behavior or focuses on nothing but. Abbreviated Jesus is also very useful for helping some keep their position of power while keeping others down and in their “place.” Ultimately, abbreviated Jesus exists as a marketing tool for books, blogs, and conferences. Interesting how this abbreviated Jesus is tied to dollars.