Jesus Can’t Be Boxed by the Bible Belt

Jesus Can’t Be Boxed by the Bible Belt

“‘Teacher,’ they said to him, ‘this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?’” (John 8:4–5 CSB)

The Bible Belt often presents a Jesus that is foreign to the faith once for all delivered to the saints. One of the great tasks of ministry in the Bible Belt, or any “churched” area, is to untangle the wrong views and thoughts of Jesus that people have accumulated or assumed. Living as disciples of Christ in the Christ-haunted suburbs and rural communities means we will constantly confront the false Jesuses of the people.

In the Bible Belt, you’ll find a variety of “Christs” that are projected from the pulpit and from the people, and the version put forward is typically tethered to the culture of the church. Legalistic and ungracious churches present a Jesus that’s just like them. And churches that are lax toward holiness and are liberal toward the exclusivity of the gospel will present a Jesus that’s just like them too.

But the real Jesus crushes our boxes.

Box 1: The Ungracious Jesus

In “churched” areas, it’s not uncommon to find Beat Cop Jesus. He walks the aisles, checks the Bible reading plans, and monitors the offering basket, ready to bust anyone who isn’t measuring up. Everyone is afraid of him. Ungracious, unloving, and unkind churches think, though they’d never say this, that Jesus is like this too. They major on God’s wrath and discipline, and minor on the forgiveness Jesus offers any sinner who comes to him.

But the Bible shows us that Jesus is merciful, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in faithful love.

The story of the woman caught in adultery shows us how Jesus won’t fit in this particular Bible Belt box.

The Pharisees are ready to pelt this adulterous woman with rocks. It’s the law. But what does Jesus do? Whoever is without sin, go ahead, wind up.

“Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with his finger. When they persisted in questioning him, he stood up and said to them, ‘The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Then he stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only he was left, with the woman in the center.” 

(John 8:6–9 CSB)

And who is the only one without sin in this scene? Jesus. And he, brimming with mercy, doesn’t reach for a rock.

Jesus shows us that he is kind, gracious, and merciful to sinners. But don’t confuse his mercy with meaning he takes sin lightly.

Box 2: The Unconcerned Jesus

On the other side of the tire fire, you’ll find churches and people that showcase Jesus as unconcerned with people’s sins: He accepts them as they are. Jesus doesn’t condemn people.

But what does Jesus say to the woman caught in adultery? His words bust out of this Bible Belt box too.

“Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” 

(John 8:11 CSB)

Sin no more. Pursue holiness. Follow God’s will. Jesus is concerned with our sins. He leads us out of them. He was hammered to a cross for them, and he walked out of a grave, bringing us with him into new life.

Jesus is a paradox to our senses. He is neither ungracious or unconcerned. He doesn’t rub our noses in our sins, and he also doesn’t look the other way.

What we find in Jesus is a kind Savior, a merciful King, and loving Lord.

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