Geez Magazine, Issue 16, ("The Jesus Issue") is hot off the presses and includes an article by yours truly. Of the 24 different flavors of Jesus in the issue, my Jesus was dubbed "Breath mint Jesus."
If you only have time to read one Geez article this month, read Context is Everything by Aiden Enns:
The transforming question is not, What do I believe about Jesus? It is, With whom do I gather to understand the life and impact of Jesus?Preach it, brother Enns.
My article was edited down for space and renamed to "Jesus comes with free ice cream bars." Since it isn't available on-line and also because blog space is infinite, the full article and original title are below:
How Would Jesus Run a Bed and Breakfast?
My wife and I decided to spend a little extra money to stay at an old Victorian Bed and Breakfast during an anniversary weekend last year. It was exactly what we were looking for, with an amiable middle-aged couple providing generous touches that make B&Bs such cozy places to be.
There were mints on the pillows, chocolate covered strawberries on the dresser and free Klondike bars in a mini-fridge. The room was bloated with puffy pillows stuffed in every nook. The sitting room had an antique piano and was filled games, old books and soft, sweet music.
My inner cynic had almost been lulled into complacency when I noticed a card gently placed on the high four poster bed:
Our Mission is to give the very same wonderful Hospitality to our Guests as our Lord and Saviour would surely give to us. To open our home for shelter and warmth and a quiet sanctuary to strangers who are soon to become our friends.
In order for us to insure your stay is enjoyable we ask you to observe the following guidelines:
I have no doubt that this nice couple was expressing the love of Jesus as best as they knew how. I even agree with some particulars. For instance, if Jesus does not serve up some chocolate-covered strawberries in heaven, I might be tempted to keep my options open.
Check in hours
Quiet time hours
No smoking or drinking
You are responsible for any damages caused by you or other members of your party.
Any unruly guests will be asked to leave and will forfeit guest fees.
We assume no responsibility for lost or stolen items. Please keep your rooms locked when away.
In this home, we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone at any time.
And yet, their train of thought goes off-track somewhere around “Breakfast hours,” jumps the tracks entirely at “lost or stolen items” and crashes into a ravine by the time it gets to “refuse service to anyone at any time.” I wondered which Jesus they were referring to, since I didn’t recognize the one in the Bible from their card.
Don’t get me wrong – their rules are very reasonable and necessary when it comes to running a business, especially one that is a labor of love rather than a serious profit-making enterprise. You can’t run an inn if unruly people keep everyone awake. And like every other B&B in the world, the proprietors had a separate area of the house where they actually lived, behind lock and key - a very reasonable arrangement.
But the problem is that Jesus is not reasonable. He expects our public and our private lives to not be separated by locked doors. He asks us to give up our shirt when someone takes our cloak. To offer the other cheek when one is slapped. To sell all our possessions, use the lilies of the field as our retirement plan and a bunch of other things that make no worldly sense.
No, Jesus is a terrible example for a business owner, because he would open up the business to the hard suffering of Christian ethics. No business would survive very long if it provided lavish comfort not just to those who could pay, but to anyone in need. It’s pretty clear that if Jesus were running a B&B, he’d let anyone in, even if they had pets. I suspect he would let in people that were known to be smokers or drinkers.
Christian business ethics aside, I think my fine, well-meaning proprietors seem to be under the assumption that Jesus wants us to be comfortable in this life. In fact, the purpose of Jesus is more like the old saying about the purpose of journalism. He came to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
And this is where I go awry as well, given how comfortable I usually am. It’s easy to point out someone else’s flaws from the comfort of my big puffy pillow, while spending money that Jesus would have given to the poor. Comfort can be like a drug, and I am but a drug user, criticizing my dealer for selling me comfort in a way that Jesus might have frowned upon.
So how would Jesus run a Bed and Breakfast? My answer is that he wouldn’t. I don’t think he is all that interested in the best way to provide a comfortable weekend to people of means like myself. Instead, he would be spending time at homeless shelters and soup kitchens, or living in a Catholic Worker House, giving aid and comfort to the poor. I can feel good about donating money to homeless shelters, but I have a nagging feeling that this doesn’t make me a follower of Jesus so much as a patron of followers of Jesus.
In my defense, I must note that Jesus enjoyed an occasional bottle of perfume poured over his head. He also seemed to go to a lot of wine-soaked wedding celebrations. So as much as I fail to directly follow his words much of time, I can only hope he’s OK with an occasional weekend pampering.
And despite my philosophical troubles with comfort, I didn’t let it distract me from a nice, enjoyable weekend away. My wife and I reconnected and reminisced over our lives together. I came to believe that a heaven without Klondike bars could be as theologically problematic as one without chocolate-covered strawberries. Everyone needs to recharge, and I should be allowed to partake without too much guilt. I suppose the important thing is to know what I am recharging myself for, and to not mistake my comfort for God’s will.