Our American Jesus

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Its the American Jesus, we only want him to please us, just wear a suit and tie,
have a wink in his eye, just a really neat guy. ~ Lyrics to American Jesus by August Rain

I recently traveled to the Dominican Republic and Grand Turk Island. Both places had breathtaking beauty, horrific poverty, and some of the happiest, kindest people I’ve met. They had joy, peace, and abiding faith in Jesus I rarely see here in the States.

Upon our return, we had an Uber driver from the Dominican Republic. He migrated here in search of a better life. When asked if he missed his country he said, “We were so poor there, but we were so happy.” His wistfulness indicated his American dream had come at a cost he hadn’t expected to pay. Why is it, with all we have here, happiness remains so elusive?

In America our faith is a mile wide, but only about an inch deep. Many of us claim faith in God, but we are unhappy, and our Christianity feels meaningless compared to our struggles. I have had people tell me, “I don’t want much, just family, a home, and security.” From our American perspective, that doesn’t seem like much. Why can’t God just deliver?

Andrew Farley says if the gospel we believe doesn’t hold up in an impoverished country, we believe the wrong gospel. I think of Mother Teresa and her Home for the Dying in Calcutta. I wonder what gospel she offered.

I bet she shared a gospel that tells us to rejoice in hardship (Romans 5:3) and I’m sure she cited Jesus when He said “in me, you will find peace, but in this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). She undoubtedly told them of a Savior who poured out His life in service to others, then challenged us to do the same. In other words, she shared the Jesus of the Bible, not the American Jesus we’ve created.

Our American Jesus is supposed to be interested in our prosperity and comfort above all else. We want Him to make sure we don’t suffer, protect our family, pay off our home, and help us with a retirement fund. The Jesus we’ve created is more interested in our spouses and houses than things like feeding the poor or healing the sick. Last I checked, that is not the Jesus of the Bible. No wonder we are disillusioned and disappointed with our Christian experience!

Jesus tells us in Luke 14:26 “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison–your father and mother, spouse, children…even your life. Otherwise, you can’t be my disciple.” What the what?! That’s all the stuff I want Jesus to protect! In fact, I entered into a relationship with Him to save my own hide. Yet He challenges me to have a love for Him so deep that nothing else in my life can compare. Love like that will keep you warm, even when you’ve lost your house and your spouse. Love like that could not help but result in constant joy.

I will admit I’m not there…yet. However, I am grateful that my Savior’s goal is to take my eyes off the god I’ve created in my own image and place them on the living God. The real Jesus will not be tamed or conform to what I desire Him to be. I thank God for that! I want a God that saves me from my selfishness, not one that feeds it. With Thanksgiving only a week away, will you join me in being thankful for our most definitely Not-American Jesus?