When someone shares her tough problem on a Facebook group, it irks me when people say, “I’m praying for you! (heart)” — and nothing else. There are many Facebook threads of, “Praying!”, “Praying for you, girl!”, “I’ll be praying for you!!!” and then a long comment from Bailey Bergmann Steger, sharing all the advice and experience she can.
It irks me when people “just pray,” because prayer doesn’t make problems go away. Solutions make problems go away. A girl asking about how to handle this tough conversation with a friend doesn’t need a thread of “just prayer.” She needs wisdom, guidance, and advice.
Spiritual and relational problems have real solutions. Christians don’t like real solutions, I’ve noticed. We like to shuffle all the problems up to Jesus and let him take care of them, as if there is no hope, no solution, and no way we can contribute to bringing about change.
I’ve said it many times too: “The world is so messed up. We just need Jesus.”
I said it because it was the pious response modeled for me by Christians dedicated to remaining separated from the world but still shaking their heads over the world as it sunk to hell.
“Jesus,” in this case, is a magical fix, a last-resort fix, something we invoke at the Wednesday prayer meeting.
In light of systemic hatred and prejudice in our world, I am quite confident the world doesn’t “just need Jesus.” Jesus as a magical fix, invoked only in prayer, doesn’t target the systems of racism, sexism, and abuse of majority power. It leaves people’s hearts unchallenged and unchanged. In fact, “just Jesus” often fostered these systems.
Christians and their prayers and Biblical interpretations supported the enslavement of blacks on the basis of their race. America is still reaping the consequences of “just Jesus.”
Christians and their prayers and Biblical interpretations continue to support the subordination of women and the antagonism of the LGBT+ community.
Christians and their prayers and Biblical interpretations continue to create environments and excuses for sexually, emotionally, and spiritually abusing the vulnerable.
We don’t need “just Jesus.” We need information, education, empathy, and resources to combat these systems of oppression. We don’t just need revival of our hearts. We need actual change worked by actual people.
What many Christians miss is that Christ came to redeem the whole world — not just our individual hearts. He came to smash oppression, not just die on the cross. As the church, we are the hands and feet of Christ. We are the body of Christ. We must now walk the earth healing, teaching, freeing, challenging, protecting, and conquering.
Prayer alone will not change the world. Invoking “just Jesus” alone will not change the world. But Jesus through the body he left on earth can change the world.
NB: I wrote this reflection in July 2016 and just now found it in my drafts. It’s still true today!