Jay Bakker: “Jesus is the Savior, Not Christianity”

jayspkbiosm.jpgJay Bakker is the only son of TV evangelists Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Messner. Mr. Bakker is the pastor of the Revolution church inside a bar in New York City called Pete’s Candy Store and the star of a documentary film entitled One Punk Under God, running on the Sundance television channel.

Like all children of divorce, Mr. Bakker was devastated. But because his mom and dad represented all he knew about God, the collapse of their ministries devastated him not just personally, but spiritually as well. After years in his personal wilderness, he, according to his website “made a personal decision to find out who God really was. What he discovered floored him – God wasn’t some judgmental, condemning deity sitting on a throne waving an angry fist in the direction of sinners – rather, he was an understanding God offering his gift of love and grace with no strings attached. For the first time Jay wasn’t being driven to Christ out of fear; he was being drawn to Christ through love.”

For many years before becoming a Christian, I was fascinated by Jim and Tammy Bakker. Despite the hype and over-the-topness of their Heritage USA, I found them believable, genuine, and entertaining people with good hearts. Since then, many diverse people have continued to be attracted to, at least,Tammy Faye Messner. The popularity of the documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye attests to that. I am interested in what our God of second chances might be doing in that family, and Jay’s story could be an important act of God’s invasion into a broken world.

In the documentary, Jay appears wounded and needing to connect with his parents. Often adult children don’t come to need their parents until their parents have either lost hope in a relationship or else moved on to build new ones. God’s hope is that parents and children can meet and heal before time runs out. As I watch the documentary, that is my hope for Jay, Tammy, and Jim, too.

“Jesus is the Savior, not Christianity”

Mark 2 tells of a paralytic who was brought to Jesus by his friends. We don’t know if the fellow even wanted to go to Jesus. All we know is that his friends knew that he needed to get near Jesus, and that Jesus would take care of the rest. Already, without knowing anything about the fellow, Jesus forgave him. Jesus didn’t ask the man to repent first. He didn’t ask him to accept him as Lord and Savior. Not yet. He just forgave him. Unconditionally.

What happened next? Jesus told the paralytic to get up and walk. And he did. He went home. Immediately, without even a thank-you. Not yet.

Christians have a hard time with the unconditionality of Jesus. Jay Bakker’s church is a direct response to that difficulty.

Too many Christians need to point out to the paralytic that he is disabled; to the leper that his rotting flesh stinks; to the tax collector that his profession impoverishes people; to the fornicator that sex outside of marriage hurts; to every person that his particular sin brings unhappiness.

Jesus, on the other hand, just loves and forgives and restores. Period.

Jay Bakker seems to be trying to do the same.

Jesus did not condemn. But his lack of condemnation did not mean he affirmed sin. The people Jesus touched never for a minute thought Jesus condoned paralysis, leprosy, tax collection, fornication, or sin. Just being near Jesus,or walking toward him, seemed to take care of that possible misimpression. As Jesus clearly points out in the very next verse following his famous John 3:16 declaration: “for God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save it.”

His love alone made people want to change their ways.

The test for Jay Bakker, and for all Christians, is whether we can love with that power, while repenting our condemnation-tempted mouths. We should remember that while we may enjoy the fruits of kingdom life already, we, too, are not yet fully sanctified ourselves.

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