When I was a kid, they had pictures of Jesus hanging in our Sunday school rooms.
He was usually doing good stuff, like healing the sick or feeding the hungry. Most of the time he had a very content look on his face.
Sometimes, I wonder if Jesus looks at us, furrows his brow and offers some expression of exasperation.
A frustrated Jesus is not hard to imagine.
Unlike the governor or president, Jesus does not have a designated spokesman. But it seems a lot of people claim to be speaking for him. Some of them will tell you how he feels about issues of the day. Others will tell you he wants you to be happy and prosperous. Some tried to convince us Jesus was OK with them living in a big mansion. That didn’t work out well.
Fred Phelps was the pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. He claimed to speak for God. In Phelps’ estimation, God was mad at pretty much everybody, except for Phelps and his followers. He wanted to tell you about people God hated and who were going straight to hell.
Phelps died recently and the reality is, he now knows if he was right or wrong.
Then, there was Kentucky pastor Jamie Coots, who had a very literal interpretation of a Bible verse that speaks of handling snakes. He was holding a rattlesnake that bit him; he refused medical attention and later died. An ambulance was brought to Coots’ house, but he declined the ride.
I do not profess to speak for God or Jesus. But in my prayers and meditation, I’ve never felt the urge to either pick up a snake or a protest sign, especially one with a message about God hating anyone.
I’ve always thought of Jesus as a man of grace. He showed love to a lot of people whom others found undesirable. The words I think of are love, forgiveness, peace, kindness and understanding.
One of the first songs I ever learned was “Jesus Loves Me.” Now, folks get excited when their little babies sing along with the latest from Miley Cyrus. I’ll put “Jesus Loves Me” up against “Wrecking Ball” any day of the week.
(I don’t own, nor do I plan to own a Miley Cyrus album, I just saw that “Wrecking Ball” was one of her big songs.)
Insurance companies run lots of ads on television about people cutting tree limbs that fall on cars and destroy them. There is always the car owner who looks at the mess in disgust. That’s the mental picture I get of a frustrated Jesus.
Nearly every generation since Jesus left the earth has been convinced its time was the end. It happened when folks started dancing the Charleston in the 1920s and listening to Elvis in the 1950s. Most people couldn’t find Liverpool on a map, but folks were convinced four young guys from there were a sure sign the world would stop turning any minute.
I’m not happy Fred Phelps or Jamie Coots are gone. In fact, we should be sad they left the earth espousing such misguided theology.
I’m listening out for Jesus. When he speaks, it won’t be from a guy on TV, a protester or a snake handler. It will be a personal message in my heart.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.