Jesus and the Steakhouse

A few weeks ago, I read an article in the New York Times profiling a group of young Manhattan Christians engaged in actively turning the East Village into a Jesus-loving neighborhood.

I enjoyed the article, but towards the end of the piece there was a quote from one of the young pastors in the community, passionately explaining to high-schoolers that Satan was out to get them. Satan, he explained, was hell-bent on making them doubt their own self-worth.

I shuttered. I imagined some New York socialite or intellectual from, you guessed it, the East Village reading those words. They would laugh out loud. Satan? The Devil? The Prince of Darkness? What utter and complete nonsense, they must think. I wished secretly that the author of the article hadn’t printed that quote.

Then I was hit with a realization that I didn’t like.

I had assumed it was a conspiracy and that the journalist had only decided to add “Satan” in the mix to undermine the inroads these believers were having in the community.

Because, let’s be honest: Christians are already considered weird, irrational, ignorant, and flat-out stupid by many.  The liberal left, for the most part, certainly see Christians as intellectually inferior.

And here we were, us Christians, talking about Satan in the New York Times. It made me uncomfortable. Then, in true God-style, the Holy Spirit made me even more uncomfortable.

“He’s real, Nicole,” I heard. “You know this, so why would you want to suppress the Truth?”

I didn’t think I wanted to cover up the truth, but the reality is…that’s what I was secretly hoping for. I wanted to edit God. I wanted to censor His word.

In that moment, while reading that article, I wanted to change the story. Or, at the very least, edit the story. I wanted to only include the culturally acceptable, easy-to-digest pieces.

I wondered: How much of Jesus’ teachings were easy to digest? Did He feed milk to His followers and would-be-followers? Or was He more in the practice of laying down thick, bloody pieces of steak?

The latter.

Jesus dished out meat, even meat they could barely chew. He was a one-man steakhouse.

Who was I to assume that the Holy Spirit could not penetrate the heart of some New York Times reader? Who was I to assume that, upon reading God’s Truth, an intellectual sipping his or her cafe latte in a shop in the East Village could not–or would not–be struck by the power of the Gospel, drop said latte, and turn to God?

It could happen, even with (or possibly because) the word “Satan” was flung about. Jesus handed out meat. The Holy Spirit is responsible for the outcome. I am in no position to try and edit the Creator and Author of life. He wrote the story, not me.

Have you ever caught yourself trying to “edit” God’s story or your own to make it more digestible? How do you preserve God’s Word in practice?

image props

26 thoughts on “Jesus and the Steakhouse”

  1. At the risk of opening a can of worms Nicole: I think the tendency in today’s church is to want to be “relevant” and therefore leaving out certain truths is par for the course. We want to make the message more palatable. Preachers do it from the pulpit. Don’t mention “sin” because it might offend. Oh really? I wonder if Jesus offended or Paul offended when they talked about it? ‘Course they did and when Jesus called out the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, they took murderous offense. Have I done it? Not from the pulpit, but shamefully, I would have to say “yes” because I didn’t want to appear out-in-left field. I didn’t compromise. I just didn’t speak, which is a whole ‘nother ballgame. I do need to be more upfront sometimes. Sorry for rambling.

    1. Bill,
      That is a great can of worms worth opening. I pretty much agree with you.

      I think you bring up a great point too, which is that that “editing God” doesn’t only happen by what we omit. As you stated, it is also not compromising or not speaking at all. Sometimes remaining silent is just as damaging.

    2. The American Church has often times become more of a spectacle in the effort to become relevant that they have left the historic Christian faith.

      I know that when some read ” historic faith ” that they recoil at the thought of dusty books and blue-haired ladies playing the piano, but it was the faith of the Apostles and through the early church that changed the World. They did it by standing on the Truth and presenting it to the masses without apology.

  2. Good post. However, I think that as long as you’re not *denying* what the scriptures say (either in word or deed or spirit), it’s ok to emphasize different points to different audiences.

    Just as the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of John speak to audiences of different backgrounds (and therefore have different emphases), you’ll probably want to focus on different arguments and prejudices when speaking with a Manhattan “liberal” and an Amarillo “conservative”… One might be initially offended or dismissive by talk of “Satan,” while the other might be put off by conversations about “justice for the poor, the orphan, and the stranger.”

    That said, denying parts of the Bible when it’s “convenient” is all too common — so it’s always good to bring it out in the open! Thank you for writing this!

    1. Ben,
      Great points and well said. We can certainly look at the apostle Paul, for example, and see that when evangelizing he was very aware of his audience. He used terminology and references that would best piece the heart of his listeners.

      Likewise, we can look at the Gospel accounts and recognize that each of the 4 books was written with a specific audience in mind. This explains why some points of Jesus ministry are emphasized in one account and not another.

      All that being said, I know personally, I all too often feel responsible for the outcome when sharing God’s Truth. In feeling responsible, I omit information, not out of awareness for my audience, but out of fear of saying the wrong thing.

      There is no wrong thing, however, when sharing God’s Word. I think of Isaiah 55:11: “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

      The Lord is responsible for the results.

  3. Well said! I agree with Ben’s point that sometimes we emphasize elements to make the Scriptures more relevant to our audience, but more often than we want to admit, we do it to avoid making them uncomfortable. We talked about fears at service yesterday and one part was about being afraid of what “they” think. Sometimes, even when we are evangelizing, we censor ourselves for this reason. It’s important to be aware of it.

  4. I feel that way sometimes. Sometimes I put my “visitor ears” on in church to listen for things that might spook a new person. Things that sound too Jesusy or preachy.

    But, seriously. Shouldn’t a preacher be preaching? And Jesus can’t be less Jesusy.

    1. You raise a good question Rachel. I know you don’t know me but as a pastor, I do struggle with this. I feel I should not compromise anything but wonder if I might say it a little more loving. At the same time, to new people isn’t it a turn off to hear words you have never heard before (with on explanation)? I think it is good that you put your “visitor” ears on. I also think you ought to put your “visitor” eyes on as well and see your church community or worship as a newbie. Do you think I’m off base?

      1. To both Rachel and Bill, I think the original “audience” for church has been forgotten–it’s the Church. Those that visit will be amazed if they see the Church in action as it was designed, not as it was meant for them, should they decide to show up. I believe we should be edifying and equipping the body of Christ to live out Jesus on a daily basis, and that’s when we should have our eyes and ears open for opportunities to share the gospel.


        1. Jonathan: absolutely agree with you. That is why I am not fond of hearing the word “relevant” when applied to our Sunday corporate worship. When we concentrate so much on being relevant, we have focused then on the audience and not on the object of worship- Jesus. To go along with that we have also then inadvertently taught that worship is Sunday morning and not 24/7. That being said: I don’t think we should totally write off the newbie or the one outside Christ and have a “foreign language” (not talking about tongues) time either. Your thoughts? Nicole? Rachel?

          1. There are some churches who focus solely on the people who show up and don’t know Christ. And there are churches who focus solely on educating the current believers and alienate the newcomers. I think what makes the difference is that educating the current believers but remembering that there are nonbelievers (or believers who aren’t living by The Book) in the congregation who need gentle reminders. You always have to think about being relevant—it’s actually one of the core values of our church—but don’t pander to the membership, either. Strive to show people that the Bible is relevant to everyone in this day and age. I think that’s the key to the relevance issue.

            Our pastor has done a phenomenal job with these things—it’s one reason we attend our church. We’ve grown leaps and bounds as Christians since we’ve been at there, the church is really doing some good in the community and abroad, and we see new people come to Christ there every day, as well.

  5. Great points Nicole! I definitely agree we shouldn’t leave out any Truth because it might be inconvenient or considered offensive. I think we are all responsible of doing this at one time or another, because we, as humans, really care what people think of us. I can’t think of a particular time but I know sometimes I preempt something I’m going to say with, “At the risk of sounding like a crazy Christian…” and then I speak some truth, but they were already expecting me to sound crazy, probably not the best method.

    On the flip side of this topic though I have also chosen times to speak truth to someone when I haven’t been lead by the Spirit and I end up looking like an arse and totally turning the person off. There are times when a person isn’t ready to hear what we have to say. By ready I mean that the Spirit hasn’t softened their hearts or prepared them. Many times people aren’t ready to hear tough messages but when it is divinely appointed these messages can sink in. Donald actually wrote a great post on this.
    Oh! Just realized you commented on it as well, oh well, I’m still gonna leave the link cause I like Donald. ;)

    I think if we are going to speak truth we cannot leave out the tough parts. And knowing when to speak such truth takes discernment and the guiding of the Holy Spirit.

    Great post!

    1. Carla,
      I too have been there when it comes to “trying to speak Truth” with no leading from the Spirit. The results have always been disastrous and I’m sure I’ve done more harm than good.

      Glad you linked to that post from Donald. It is so good and so on point.

  6. I just usually wear a Christian t-shirt that says something like, “This blood’s for you” or “Lord’s Gym” and I feel I’ve pretty accurately told everyone all I need to say.

    In all seriousness, there’s a song that this reminds me of. It’s from a band called Pedro the Lion, the main dude is David Bazan. The song is “Foregone Conclusion”. It’s got some bad language, and while I don’t necessarily condone what the lyrics are, it brings up the same point that I think others are arguing here. That different situations demand different responses, and that the Gospel should not necessarily be presented in the same way to all people. That is a fine line…making sure to not leave the important stuff out, but at the same time tailoring it so that it makes sense to the people you’re talking to. It’s a hard line to follow, and I’m glad Jesus gives me/us a lot of Grace when we’re in discussions.

    1. Josh,
      You had me laughing out loud with your t-shirt descriptions! Thank you for that!

      You said it so well too. There is a fine line and balance. We need grace, discernment, and the willingness to be led by the Spirit. You are right, the Lord does pour out His grace when we take the risk and open our mouths. I too am thankful for that.

  7. I was wondering where you were going with this when I first started reading. The truth of the matter is that satan is out to destroy us. The word of GOD tells us so. I thought the article was good and well needed. So many people(myself included) try to soften up the bible to make us feel better. We pick and choose(buffet style) what we want to believe and it ends up hurting us in the long run. The WORD is living, it’s truth…all of it.

    I can agree that some people, especially those that are just starting out in the Faith, should only have milk. However, we can’t stay live on milk forever. Eventually we are going to need some meat, especially in this “dog eat dog” world. Thanks for sharing Nicole! ~T.

    1. Tamarria,
      I love what you called our picking and choosing of the word–buffet style. So genius and witty…and sadly, so true.

      I used to only be able to consume milk, but as Paul explains, we cannot live on milk forever. Thanks for the great comment.

      P.S. I dig your name…so pretty.

  8. PLEASE…. YOU ARE ALL WRONG.. Let just say the truth is not the truth at all. I have called upon God in the name of jesus so many times and all I get is a big nothing… I had to get real after 18 years on jesus side and wake up. yes its all coming to an end anyway. But not one can say shit about the first earth age. we had more tech and we even had a mixing of the fallen ones. hecns the flood. oh why if he was such a great god did he even let that happen, now tell me why we have over a billion people asking and still cant get a bit to eat, then we have a billion more that will cow down to anything that feeds them. oh lets not forget your great god with all the wars out there. one more thing, yes he so great and he did say it was all for his enjoyment, well what a sicko is he?? Now take David ,lust after lust, he put people to death for things he did, but no God said let him live.. no it was that David had his own power play..thats why he got away with murder.then put up his baster son as king.. even that he did marry the cheating hor.. now that said lets look at the rest of the gang, did you all know that their were three other peole born the same time as jesus that all had the same story, and all went back up to where ever they came from.. we are all just a toy and now we must take ourself away from god and his fallen ones.. tell them all to leave us out of the bs as far as we all know we are still living in a cube that is just being watch by someone in a lab.. I used to believe and still do.. but not the way you do.. I would like to kick his ass and have him come down now and try to walk the earth as he did before.. in 2011, it would never happen, thats why the other joker is coming back first as they wrote with powers and people will say oh ya he has to be the one..but people both are just as bad as the other.. they are cowards that will not show you anything,, but it is a good business to make money and hide all your sick ways and people still give you money.. as we laugh all the way to the bank.. so tell me im wrong here, tell me that jesus is not a 100% coward and he never ever reply s to a prayer…if i pray to a fire and then to jesus , its a 50/50 that the fire will give me what i want, same with jesus… or god heck you can pray to your shoes and get the same odds.. so good luck and as Mr Carlen said. ANY OTHER God would have toss this one out on his ass for not being able to handle money…he always needs money.. if he so great and kind why is he deaf and dum???can he not heal himself.. of well im not mad at god i just think he a true fake. I thi k he is real but cant deal with the truth.. hell he couldnt even stop fallen ones they still keep coming and going from wherever they come from.. please people wake up.. when you die you just go back to the start of the game..

    1. Dear Bull, some may be highly offended by what you’ve said but I sense a lot of pain in your response. I don’t know what you have experienced in life or what you were looking to get from GOD, but blaming him won’t change anything or make anything better for you. How can you be so sure your prayers weren’t answered? Because it wasn’t the answer you were looking for? That’s not the way GOD works. HE is ALMIGHTY, knowing everything, including what’s best for us. When we pray, we pray for what we want to happen when in reality, we should be praying for what GOD wants for our lives. It’s easy to blame someone for the pain and suffering we experience individually or in the world as a whole; but I wonder why are we so quick to blame GOD and not ourselves? We have free will to do what we want. If you see hungry people in the world, feed them…even if you can only feed one. That’s a start. Take responsibility for your part in the pain you’ve experience and turn to GOD for help. Stop pointing the finger and start looking in the mirror. That goes for all of us.

      P.S. JESUS isn’t coming back as HE did before to “walk” the earth. HE’S coming back to make war against all those that oppose HIM. I highly doubt that you will be able to “kick anyone’s ass” during that time. I will definitely be praying for you, and I mean that.

      1. Wait a min here, who said anything about being hurt. I just woke up to the fact that They have more tec then we do. I dont care\if he did make us The fact that you did not address is billions are staving every day, AS FOR HIM COMING BACK,YES HE IS. However the fallen one or as one might say Satan and his other group that went with him. Are here now working away, If this was a game and its a hi tec game from his world. We are all ponds in it. Yes free will lets see about that. First tell me why the king of kings and lord of lords let people stave to death everyday.
        Then tell me if he is so great and your blindness to the facts are spot on, did you drink the cool aid today? Facts are facts. I see the world as it is. If the great god is coming back great, then it is to clean his mess up that he started in the first place. even jesus said it was not to be this way.. But at the end of the day I do agree with you he is coming back, all programed out to the last little item. I am pissed off no im not just being real here. how can anyone be so blind to follow anyone. Look at the facts of the other 3 men born the same time Jesus was born all born of a virgin and all had the same power. all went back to wherever they came from the same way Jesus went. Now they also are written in the history books as well.

        That said if you go to the book of Enoch and read up on what life was like before the fall of the first earth age, you will have many questions, even that people in quack-Academic that do not look at the facts of that age.. are blind.. HE as Jesus said let them that have eyes see, let them that have ears hear.. I open both of them up and engaged my mind and
        soul.. I am saying just all the fact before you rush to believe by blind faith. Yes is he real yes he is ,do I agre with all what man has place before us to read and learn,, hell no.. the facts do not ad up.. now look at the pope and what that church is ding in banking they are making a new world order and all the other churches are falling into line..its about banking and control.but one will not take blame for anything. I could go on and on with the facts and not being blind.
        I will say look at the whole earth and look at the history of other people and tell me that in the first earth age we didnt have ship that flew and people that were 12 o 18 foot tall. look at the facts.. look at INDIA and the gods they had and look into the giants or as we call them hybred-inbreds. As Nora in his day they were giving and taking in marriage, Yes please do your research on the facts and its what is about to come soon. if you really look at world banking its all lined up. Now tell me its not a pre set program.. Thia is all for now. but thank you for your time. I am not mad just not playing by mans rules anymore. They are for the control over you and yours. Look and listen and the truth will set you free. But nice site you have here keep up the good work.. I seek I found that I need facts not fairy tails

    2. Hello,
      I have to echo much of what Tamarria wrote to you, as well.

      I’m sorry if you felt burned by God or let down. I get it. I get crying out in praying, asking Him for something and it not happening. The thing is, I know He is real because I have relationship with the living God. When my prayers aren’t answered or things don’t turn out the way I want, I could get angry too. I could reject Christ and turn my back on Him. However, in knowing Him (and I mean truly understanding and loving Him) I also know that He is not some kind of genie in a bottle.

      He is not my Santa Claus or my wish-granter. More than that, following Christ is not the guarantee of an easy life or even a happy life, for that matter. He demands our lives first and in return we receive the abundant life. To be clear, the abundant life Jesus offers is not free from pain, suffering, loss or heartache. It is, however, a life spent in worship and relationship with the One True God, who is deserving of our honor whether He grants us our 3 wishes or not.

      Men twist Jesus. Men ask for money and cheat, steal, and lie. Jesus did not and does not. Confusing man’s sin with Christ’s promises is a dangerous game. One must discern the two because eternity depends on it.

      Thank you for commenting here and sharing your thoughts. I appreciate your doing so and hope you begin to see Jesus for who He truly is, not who the world has purported Him to be.

    3. He is coming back and it most assuredly will not be in the same manner as before.

      The thing we most often forget is that we live in a sin cursed world and we must deal with the affects of that curse.

      God doesn’t need your money and the snake-oil salesmen that are perpetually asking for it are not representing God. Quoting Carlin is not exactly a good thing as he does not understand the things of God either

  9. Jonathan said:
    “I think the original “audience” for church has been forgotten–it’s the Church. Those that visit will be amazed if they see the Church in action as it was designed, not as it was meant for them, should they decide to show up. I believe we should be edifying and equipping the body of Christ to live out Jesus on a daily basis, and that’s when we should have our eyes and ears open for opportunities to share the gospel.”

    But, but, but, Jonathan…church is where you find Jesus, right? I mean, He is always there, hanging out, being cool, you know, being relevant and cutting-edge.

    If I can’t visit church and find Jesus then what’s the point? Isn’t that the point of Sunday morning, dressing up, and going to church?

    (Your comments were spot-on, Jonathan.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *