What if Jesus really meant what he said about loving — not condemning — the world?
God so loved the world that he sent his only Son to show you how to be respectable, church-going Christians. Your neighbors need to see God’s love in action, which means dressing sharp and driving away to church on Sunday morning. The important thing is to look religious. Don’t sleep in like your neighbors who were probably out drinking last night. There’s no better witness than the backside of your car as you’re speeding off to church. The next best thing is to bow your heads and pray in restaurants where everyone can see how holy you are.
God so loved the world that he gave his only son, Jesus, to show you how to invest your time and resources in buildings, not people. Everybody knows that “church” is not people. “Church” is a building with a steeple and cross. Be prepared to go to war against anyone who threatens your building with restrictions or zoning. This is your identity, impressed in brick and steel and glass! It’s irrelevant that you could be meeting in homes, giving money that’s normally spent on facilities and salaries to people in need. Spill blood, if necessary, to defend that floor plan. “Freedom of worship” is impossible in a home or garden. God is structure, and his worshipers must worship him in structure and in truth. Never, never forget that this building is your identity, so fight to the death for it.
For God did not send his Son into the world with unconditional love for everybody in your neighborhood. Can you imagine the mixed message of sitting down and sharing a meal with people who are lazy and addicted, with felons and sexual perverts? That could lead to all kinds of chaos! Lord knows, there’s enough confusion out there. Keep it black and white; wrong and right. Be quick to put people in boxes, one labeled “heaven” and the other “hell.” My followers need to be pious judges of people’s hearts.
This, in fact, is true religion: to establish a holy house of worship on a patch of dirt as the ultimate symbol of your faith. Moreover, true religion means voting for “moral” politicians and speaking up for that nebulous group called the “unborn.” The good thing about the unborn is that you can get them born and forget all about them, while feeling great about yourself. It’s way easier to picket and call congressmen than it is to get your hands dirty helping the dregs of society. This is a win-win situation. You get all the credit for defending a so-called “life” (which is barely true, given the sub-human standards they’re forced to endure), while you are sipping latte in the suburbs, without all the stink and e coli and dysfunctional relationships.
God sent his son into the world to show you how to make people feel bad for not praying in public and for not driving off to church on Sunday morning. He showed you how his conditional love stops short of perverts and addicts and confused “he-shes.” Jesus came to draw sharp lines so you can clearly see who’s in and who’s out. Follow the rules and pity those who don’t. Your rule-keeping will be a good witness to the world and it shows good form.
People won’t know what to think if they see fornicators and reprobates hanging around with good church people. That’s not respectable. Now get cleaned up and dress like a Christian. Get your religious game-day face. Church starts at 10:30 so don’t be late.
Like the jester, Christ defies custom and scorns crowned heads. Like a wandering troubadour, he has no place to lay his head. Like the clown in the circus parade, he satirizes existing authority by riding into town replete with regal pageantry when he has no earthly power. Like a minstrel, he frequents dinners and parties. At the end, he is consumed by his enemies in a mocking caricature of royal paraphernalia. He is crucified amidst snickers and taunts with a sign over his head that lampoons his laughable claim. — Theologian Harvey Cox
Do not flatter yourself with the belief that a mere recital of that celebrated verse in St. John makes a man a Christian. If I have read the Bible correctly, I know many men who have never known the name of Jesus Christ, men who have even rejected the official interpretation of Christianity, but would nevertheless, if Jesus came in our midst today in the flesh, be probably owned by him more than many of us. — Mahatma Gandhi
Power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people … — Theologian Henri Nouwen.
Image by Maureen Simon, www.instagram.com/maureen.simon, used with permission.
 Harvey Cox, “The Feast of Fools,” (New York: Harper and Row, 1969), p. 140–141.
 C.F. Andrews, Routledge Revivals: Mahatma Gandhi’s Ideas (1929) (London: Routledge Press, 2016).
 Henri Nouwen, “In the Name of Jesus,” (New York: Crossroad), 1989,