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A fundamental flaw

January 14, 2012

The following video has been making its way around the internet recently. In it, Jefferson Bethke delivers a powerful and well-crafted spoken word poem. Bethke states that the point of his video is “to highlight the difference between Jesus and false religion.” His video has generated quite a bit of controversy, with most of it revolving around the word “religion” and its meaning. However, I think people on both sides of the debate have missed the real issue.

There is some really good stuff in this video, and yet it contains a fundamental flaw.

There is a line in his poem that says “See because religion says do, Jesus says done.”

This is wrong. The word “done” signifies that something is complete, finished, over. This belies a flaw in the thinking of most Christians. We have been told, and tend to believe, that the gospel is about Jesus, his death on a cross and how that creates the opportunity for us to have our sins forgiven and go to heaven.

But that is not the gospel.

Jesus is the gospel. It isn’t just his death, or his resurrection. It’s not an event, or what those events provide for us. It’s Him. All of him. “Jesus says done” makes sense only if being a Christian is about the cross. But there is so much more to it than that. Lots more. Jesus says that he is the beginning and the end. He says that he is “I am.” “I am” literally means “to be” and has the connotation of being presently active, as well as active in the past and the future. In John 14:6 Jesus said that he was life. In Gal. 2:20, Paul says “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Jesus came to bring life and freedom. In fact, Jesus becomes your life and your freedom. It is something active and continual.

This is huge.

Jesus doesn’t say do or done. Jesus says be. Jesus says live. We are to be in him. We are to abide in him. We are to live by his life. These are all present active actions, not some passive thing that has happened in the past and has no bearing on our life today.

But this is not something we “do.” It is something we become, in Christ.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2012 1:38 pm

    I love this bro!

  2. January 14, 2012 2:09 pm

    I think you also missed the point, Jamal. I don’t think it is either “done” or “be”–I think it is BOTH. “Done” in the sense that the debt we owe because of our sins is over, which is the cross; and “be” in that we are and become a new creation through the work of sanctification in our walk with Jesus. It is a continuum: death to sin, new birth in Christ, and on-going maturation. Or perhaps it can be seen as two sides of a coin…but it is not a case of correct versus incorrect.

    • Anonymous permalink
      January 16, 2012 6:51 pm

      Completely agree. It is not a case of correct versus incorrect.

  3. Mark Champion permalink
    January 14, 2012 2:23 pm

    Be. Amen.

    Be. In. Christ.

    • January 23, 2012 11:58 am

      Mark, yes. How amazing and freeing that is

  4. kaley permalink
    January 14, 2012 2:36 pm

    Amen, brother! That was the only line that bothered me, too. Jesus is still alive and working, still sharper than a double edged sword dividing spirit from flesh. We need Him to be. Though I liked how he drew attention to the fact we no longer need to preform. This opens the door for people to understand we need to live in Christ by his very life while shutting the door on religion. At least this is my hope…

    • January 23, 2012 12:00 pm

      Kaley, that is my hope as well.

  5. Reid Adams permalink
    January 14, 2012 2:42 pm

    @JamalJivanjee but the gospel is the cross. It doesn’t make sense without it. Everything you speak of is only relevant in light of the finality of Jesus atonement. What he is saying is not that only the cross matters. But it takes Jesus finishing what he did and being “done” AND THEN intersecting our destruction and resurrecting us before we can, as you said, “be.”

  6. Mitch.and.Sarah permalink
    January 14, 2012 2:45 pm

    I understand what you are saying that a Christians life is in Christ, but what about when Jesus said “It is finished.” Wouldn’t you agree that even Jesus said it was done? I think that this is what the poem is referencing.

    And the core of religions in the world are based on doing rather than being. Christianity, however, is based on the simple fact that Jesus did it all, making our work done. We don’t need to do, do, do – we are found in Christ. Our being and identity is in Him.

    I hear what you are saying tho.

    • Anonymous permalink
      January 14, 2012 10:40 pm


  7. emory permalink
    January 14, 2012 4:12 pm

    Jefferson communicated his message poorly. I would like to be able to fill in the gaps of what he means to say or where his heart is, but he put a video up on youtube that took some time and effort to produce. For those that defend his message with, “we all knew what he meant,” or “what he meant was,” that is doing just as much harm to him as overly criticizing every line and word with hammer to nail nuance. I, too, am very tempted to analyze and critique every blessed word he spoke, because, honestly it begs for that, but I’ll give him an pass on the basis of artistic license, since apparently it was a spoken word poem; a performance. Some could argue that modern preaching in the art of rhetoric is much like this, but I will not light that fire here. What is more important, and some have mentioned this, is that many conversations have emerged. Hopefully, the young man, Jefferson, will learn from this experience, and find ways to continue to express his love for Jesus.

    • January 23, 2012 11:55 am

      Emory, I completely agree with you. I spent a lot of time thinking about whether or not to write this post, because I did want to be seen as just someone overly critical of his words.
      I could have written this post without referencing the video as I believe the issue of do/done vs be is a major problem in the church today, however, this video, and the attention it was receiving, provided a great segway into this conversation.

      I did state that there is some great stuff in this video and I still believe that. I love the fact that he sees that there is something wrong between reality/truth and the Christianity he has been taught and he is looking to figure out what that is. I think what I discussed above is the missing piece he is looking for and that is why I wrote it.

  8. January 16, 2012 12:42 pm

    Just for the record, this article was written by my brother Jon Scherdin. This is his blog, not mine. Although I agree with this article, I did not write it. I think there was some confusion about that:) Jon brings up a vital point that was not mentioned in the video, yet is vitally important in distinguishing life in Christ vs. ‘Religion’.

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