The “Jesus” You Never Heard Pt.2

We gave the expert panel about a week to get back to us with their opinions.  Every day my inbox dinged with the delivery of another lyrical analysis.

The first to arrive was my pastor’s.  He stood by the lyric as it was, writing that whatever controversy had arisen stemmed more from the listener’s personal issues than from the theology of the lyrics. 

Charlie Peacock wrote the longest and most thorough line by line exegesis of the song.  His take was what theologians would call dispensational: history is divided into sections (dispensations) and God, whose character never changes, will choose to behave differently from one period to the next.  His concern, and the concern of one other author, was that Matthew 25 was about the way Christians were to be treated during the very specific period of history called the tribulation – which hasn’t yet arrived – when we will be imprisoned and persecuted and suffer for following Jesus.  In that dispensation, he said, people can love Christ by loving the persecuted Church. But he said it more beautifully and with many words I didn’t understand.  And he said that if we’re taking the song literally, that if it is Jesus actually doing the things I wrote about in the song, then we should be concerned not only about Jesus turning a trick but also about him waving a foreign flag (third verse) because Jesus was allegiant to no nation.  (At the time, that was a radical thought for me that I dismissed as liberal bunk.  Odd that now I agree that Jesus would not be a nationalist and I base so much of my teaching on peace and mercy upon that very idea.)

A couple of authors wrote back quickly saying they saw nothing wrong with the song.  Heavyweight scholars and theologians didn’t write back at all.  John Piper’s research assistant had troubles with the entire song.  His concern was that no matter how true the intended message may be, there was a considerable risk of some, even just one, misunderstanding and coming to the erroneous conclusion that Jesus sins or that Jesus is in every person – that we are gods ourselves.  In general, the pastors who had concerns about the song took it very literally (Jesus actually panting seeds, actually driving a truck, in his robe and sandals).  They didn’t recognize metaphor in the song, and refused to take even the smallest leap and instead appraised everything at face value and worried that others in their care would do the same and draw the wrong conclusions.

We heard from Tony Campolo’s son Bart, leader in the area of inner city renewal.  He suspected someone had a problem with the “trick” line.  He argued that some Christians assume prostitution is something entered into willingly in most cases, and said it is not.  He said, based on his experience, it is often a form of slavery, not just overseas in the third world but here at home.  He wrote passionately about how rescuing women and children from prostitution is the work of the Church and this song needed to be heard by it…and he didn’t like the vocal and the production and made some suggestions on that front.  I had no idea he was a closet producer and a missionary.  Of course, I wasn’t singing about a love only for those who are forced to sin, but a love for all people – all sinners by birth and by choice.  But I appreciated his compassion anyway and his ability to recognize my song as a song (demanding a leap or two to be taken by the listener) and not a sermon (able to be fully understood at face value).

We ran out of time.  Most of our original panel didn’t respond before the deadline set.  We had to make a decision based on the little opinion we’d collected, and make it fast.  I’d made a promise and it was time to keep it.  But then I had a different idea I thought might please everyone – even me.

Read part 1 and part 3.