Trying Jesus

I read this status on facebook the other day that asked when it was ever a good idea to say “try Jesus.” There were some funny answers, like that maybe it was a taunt like “come on Jesus, try it!” or like maybe it was the name of a sandwich. So I started thinking about what someone could actually mean when they say “try Jesus” (or to put it more accurately: when they put a bumper sticker on their car that says “try Jesus”). I came up with a couple options (and I was trying to give this phrase the benefit of the doubt):

  • Directed to Christians: if you are having a hard time with something, facing a struggle in life or maybe some spiritual crisis, you should try to turn to Jesus for strength and support rather than try to carry the load on your own shoulders.
  • Directed to Non-Christians: if you are looking for some spiritual meaning in life, or a religion, or assurance of Heaven, or (to be very generous lets add) the truth you should look into Christianity (or, as the phrase puts it, Jesus).

I’m not sure which is meant since it is hard to glean a deep meaning out of a two word phrase, but those are my guesses. Is there one that is preferable to the other? I don’t think so. I think they both have a major flaw. It is one of the two words, and obviously it isn’t the word “Jesus.” The word “try” implies seeing if something works for you, it’s as if you are saying “give Jesus a shot.” Why? For practical benefit. I don’t believe we can simply “give Jesus a shot” since following him implies dying to one’s self and completely surrendering to Him as Lord. It seems hard to me to believe that you could try that on for size. I remember reading Pascal’s Wager in one of my seminary classes. Pascal posts a wager which basically boils down to “what do you have to lose by following Jesus?” If you become a Christian and it isn’t true you will simply die and be dead, but if you don’t become a Christian and it IS true you will suffer the ultimate consequence. I think this wager captures the major error in the “try Jesus” thinking. It doesn’t force you to decide if it’s true. It is practically beneficial to be a Christian and “cover your bases” so to speak. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, it’s worth following simply because it could be true and you don’t want to be on the wrong side if it is.

Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it … So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. – Luke 14:25-28, 33 NKJV

That, to me, does not sound like something you can try risk free for 30 days.

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About Dan Allen

Just some guy trying to figure stuff out... View all posts by Dan Allen

4 responses to “Trying Jesus

  • Alan Knox

    Very good commentary on the bumper sticker. I’m still scratching my head about it, for the very reasons that you brought up.

    -Alan

    • Dan Allen

      Alan

      I think the thing I find most concerning, especially as I considered Pascal’s Wager, is that this thought is much more common, even among the scholarly, than I ever realized.

  • Money back guarantee? | The Assembling of the Church

    […] thought about this bumper sticker and written a serious post about it. His post is called “Trying Jesus.” After giving us two possibilities for the meaning of “Try Jesus,” Dan says: I […]

  • Mark

    Dan,

    So, true. Kind of goes back to a conversation I think was had previously on what it REALLY means to be saved. Following Christ is really an all or nothing proposition. As the t-shirts say (sorry, probably a cliche), “Go hard or go home”. There is truth to this. In reality, to really follow Jesus you HAVE to believe, because He calls us to do things we would never do if we DIDN’T believe. He calls us to live radically, sacrificial lives, that we couldn’t live in the first place if we didn’t walk in Him. Being in Christ is not about beliefs, for “the demons also believe – and shudder”. Being in Christ is about living, about serving, about purposefully choosing to follow Him and do as He directs. Simply believing, and going to bible studies, and reading the bible (typical things people do when they “try” Jesus) will not “work”. We must commit ourselves to Him without desire for secondary gain (although we can certainly expect to see secondary gain), without specific results in mind, or we best not walk after Him at all.

    Mark

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