The Problem With Teddy Bear Jesus

I know the title sounds a little weird, maybe even a little funny, but I think my meaning will be made perfectly clear in this post. So bear with me here (pun intended).

carry cross

When you say, “I’m a Christian”, what does that mean? Does it mean that you go to church every Sunday, or go when you can? Does it mean that you tolerate other people? Does it mean that you say you “don’t judge” but secretly pass judgment on everyone in your heart? Or does it mean that you go out and feed the hungry? Clothe the naked? Visit the imprisoned? What SHOULD it mean?

I’m afraid that, in many ways, we have watered down the Gospel. We’re comfortable with where we are (especially in the West). We have a nice house, a good family, enough food and water, and some of us have more than enough entertainment. But hey, we go to church every single Sunday and we always put money in the plate and pay attention during the service and listen to the (sometimes long and boring) sermon/message for the day. We try to be good friends to people and attempt to be fair and just in our work.

But…is that all we should be doing?

Have we diluted the Gospel so much that we think we’re doing “enough”? When we read about Jesus blessing the poor, telling people to sell their belongings and give to those in need, warning that the rich will have a hard time of entering the Kingdom…we squirm a little bit. Somehow, though, it’s all explained away. That was just Jesus’ culture, just something in that time period that needed to be addressed — we have nothing to worry about. And hey, we give to charities! We ARE helping the poor!

Are we, really?

“‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

-Matthew 25:44-46

Clinging to this teddy bear Jesus we’ve invented — this Jesus who affirms everything we do and is constantly reassuring us that we’re doing “enough” — isn’t gonna cut it. The Gospel message is radical! Going to church is great and we should do that; giving monetarily to churches is good and we should do that; trying to be kind to others is good and we should do that, too. But here’s a good test: if you’re really comfortable with your life and can’t imagine it without the comforts you have now, can’t imagine inconveniencing yourself, can’t imagine how you could possibly do more, chances are that you’re far from doing what you could be doing.

Now before you start thinking that I’m gonna tell you to sell your house and go move to some random country you’ve never heard of, just hold on a minute. The ministry you SHOULD be doing, the ministry you COULD be doing, isn’t necessarily across the globe somewhere. There are people in your community right now who are starving, who are lonely, depressed, and in need of love and compassion. Start there. Give of your time and your talents. When you see someone in need, don’t stop to ask whether or not they are “worthy” of your help — help them. And I’m not talking about giving the homeless person standing by the side of the road a couple of coins as you walk by. Look into that person’s eyes and talk to that person, and find out how you can help that individual. You don’t have to go to some other country to live out the Gospel message. You can give completely of yourself and your talents right here, right where you live, right now.

There are also people in other countries, all over the world, who need our love and support. You can send money and prayers — but you can also volunteer to go and help. It’s one thing to pity the poor and quite another to live in solidarity with them. Jesus doesn’t call us to be of help from a distance. He calls US to be His hands and feet, to give drink to the thirsty and food to the hungry. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. We shouldn’t be comfortable with sitting back and watching as our brothers and sisters suffer and go hungry and endure hardship at home and abroad. As difficult as it is sometimes, we have to reach out and help.

There are people who are starving. There are people who are suffering. There are people being persecuted. There are people who are ostracized. There are people who don’t feel welcome in our churches. There are people who are refugees, fleeing from oppressive and dangerous regimes. There are people who are depressed and need love and support. There are people who are afraid, children who are abused and need homes…the list goes on. There is no shortage of work to be done.

Love is an act of self-giving. If we are to love the poor and those most in need of our help, we can’t possibly think that sitting around is going to cut it. We’re going to have to get out of our comfort zones, to let ourselves be challenged. Don’t let yourself settle for doing the bare minimum. Push the envelope a little bit at a time. What Jesus calls us to is radical and absolutely challenging — He set the bar pretty high. But with His grace, we can do it.

Don’t hold anything back! If you think, “I’ll do this act of service, but no way am I doing that!”…you should go do that. It’ll never be easy and rarely be convenient, but it will always be rewarding. Give of yourself completely, a total surrender to God and neighbor out of love.

That’s what Jesus asks of us. THAT’S what it means to be a Christian. Take some time to think about that during this Lenten season.

About acatholicteenapologist

I am a Catholic teenager who loves to share the truth of the Catholic Faith with others.

Posted on March 10, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Cassandra Sullivan

    So true! Great post. :))

  2. I very much enjoyed your post and it hits the nail on the head… but, to be frank, I am quite tired of these posts. Before I even say another word, let me preface this by saying, these generalizations are referring to an assumption about a generation, not specific people.

    Time after time I have read these posts made that are beautifully written by a soul reaching out, but it never comes to fulfillment. By that I mean, the present generations has grown to seek their spiritual fulfillment from pixels and not footsteps. From millions of colors, and not people. If there were just 10 people who acted out what was explained in the myriad of Catholic posts about living the Gospel, things would be changing before our eyes.

    Sometimes I fear that our generation is hindering itself through the anonymity of the web; this even includes allowing a bio page to be viewed. Maybe this has to do with the widespread nature of the internet, I don’t know, but it sure seems to continue to effect us. When literature was written for a large group to read, you had the opportunity for local people to further up the discussion in person, with the author. Just envision the days of newspaper articles being written between Chesterton and critics. Did they end right there on the paper? No! They took them to the streets. People were able to understand through actions, not backless words!

    This is a call to stop the writing; or, if there is something written, let it be about your experience with acting out the words of the Gospel.

    That’s what we need. A place to state how actions changed you, not how you should act.

    Thank you and keep up the good work.

    • Jon–

      Thanks for the comment! I agree with you, to an extent. It is absolutely true that writing something about how people need to live out what the Gospel really means does not necessarily mean that things are going to change — that’s something that is out of the author’s control. It might be that 50 people will read such an article and only 1 will walk away and actually do something…and it might also be that no one does anything with it, not even the author. From time to time, people come across articles like this and maybe for the most part nothing happens. And yes, it can definitely get to a point where it seems ridiculous for people to post anything like that anymore. Theologians and bishops and bloggers and teenagers and all sorts of folks are ranting and raving about how we need to change, and it seems like it gets nowhere.

      Still, the call has to be put out there; the call to conversion has to be sounded anyway. It is definitely true that the Gospel message has been watered down, that it has been twisted to fit our lifestyles and our desires — and it’s also true that it has to stop, that we have to wake up and realize that what Jesus is calling us to do is often so much more than what we’re doing. The point of posts like this is to wake people up, to make them think. Sometimes that thought won’t bear fruit for years, sometimes it bears fruit instantly, sometimes never. The point of posting something like this is as much to make people think about their lives and what they need to change as it is to tell them to stop spreading a “Gospel” message that has a Jesus who affirms everything they do and think instead of challenging them to be saints.

      There may be some people who read this post or others like it who have never really stopped to think about how they view the Gospel, about how they view Jesus and their neighbor, about what they mean when they say that they’re Christian. For those people, it could be a turning point — hence, such posts are not invalid and don’t need to be stopped.

      But I absolutely understand your frustration. There’s all this talk about what Christianity really is and what it means to live the Gospel and how much we should be doing, and yet there’s very little action. People hear sermons like that or read articles about it and don’t do anything to change, and that’s disappointing and frustrating and just outright maddening. In writing this post, though, it was my intention and my hope to wake some people up and make them think about their jobs as Christians, and I have every intention of doing something about this in my own life.

      I don’t know that I really have a solution to this problem. All we can do is try to live out this (very demanding) message in our own lives and call others to do the same. What do you think?


  3. Well said Taylor! Your blog challenges me to take action. Because it’s hard, I need to hear it often to push me to take action. And I’ve been hearing it a lot lately, so I can’t ignore it! Thanks for another needed reminder : )

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