© 2010 John Casimir O'Keefe


When I was a kid, I had a Jack-in-the-box and it always freaked me out.   It could be because it was a clown (clowns are freaky), or it could be because it just scared the crap out of me when it popped out; either way, it was not my favorite toy.  Winding the handle, hearing that flat one note tune and being shocked when that freaky clown popped out was never fun for me.  What surprised me the most was realizing the adults around me enjoyed watching me freak-out when that clown popped up.  My uncle use to laugh for hours because I was so scared when it popped out.  Knowing the Jack-in-the-box scares me, I am not given to playing with them, at all.  Because of this, I tend to run from churches that have created a “Jesus-in-the-box.”

We have placed Jesus in the box, we have developed the flat one note tune and we use it to scare people.  It does not matter how big the box is, we still have placed him in the box.  We have turned Jesus into a “Jesus-in-the-box.”   We crank the handle, and get shocked when he pops out.  We think we can control when Jesus pops out and we are quick to pull out the box when we need to play the “Jesus card.”

Jesus as the clown

Many churches have turned Jesus into their personal clown.  They twist his words to make their point and they belittle and laugh at anyone who is scared by their Jesus.  One of the Jesus clowns is found in the prosperity gospel.  I have always been amazed at the people who push this message.  The idea that Jesus, who lived the life of the poor, would want us to be rich; kind of gives the rich man an out.

One note

Many churches see Jesus as one note.  Liberal or Conservative, but they seldom see the symphony that Jesus offers all that follow.  Jesus is a complex composition and it not even close to the flat one note they desire us to hear.   It’s easy to play a simple tune; it can be played on the guitar.  But a complex piece, one that requires an orchestra, requires a complex understanding of people and their place in our lives.

Used to scare others

Jesus is not a hammer, he is our savior.  We should not scare people, or beat people over the head, with Jesus.  We should invite people into our lives and over time they will see Jesus working in us and in turn they will want that same Jesus.  When we use Jesus to scare people, we push them away and they run to a place where they feel safe.


When we take Jesus out of the box and we understand the complexity of his life and message we are open to share that message with others.  Some churches over the past have decided to change, but that does not mean they have changed.   Len Sweet asked the following question on Facebook today: Question: 3 frogs sat on a log. One decided to jump off. How many frogs were left on the log?  What is your answer?  Think about this for a moment.  Think about the reality that is set before you.  The answer to the questions is Three.   Why?  Just because a frog decides to jump off the log does not mean that it actually did.

One Comment

  1. k
    Posted 2010/08/25 at 1:35 pm | #

    Powerful. And very true.

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