Jesus Loves Me (But He Can’t Stand You)

The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-Charge - Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

A number of years ago I wrote a devotional for the paper entitled “Jesus Loves Me (But He can’t Stand You”). Here is another version based on the text of a song by Don Peters. The text goes like this:

“I know you smoke, I know you drink that brew

I just can’t abide a sinner like you

God can’t either, that’s why I know it to be true

That Jesus loves me, but he can’t stand you

I’m going to heaven, boys, when I die

Cause I’ve crossed every “t” and I’ve dotted every “i”

My preacher tells me that I’m God’s kind of guy;

That’s why Jesus loves me, but you’re gonna fry.

God loves all his children, by gum

That don’t mean he won’t incinerate some

Can’t you feel those hot flames licking you

Woo woo woo.

I’m raising my kids in a righteous way

So don’t be sending your kids over to my house to play

Yours will grow up stoned, left-leaning, and gay;

I know Jesus told me on the phone today.

Jesus loves me, this I know

And he told me, where you’re gonna go

There’s lots of room for your kind down below

Whoa whoa whoa.

Jesus loves me but he can’t stand you.

(Lizard Vision FF 70569; No Moo Music/BMI)

This song is a parody, of course, on that favorite old Sunday school hymn, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” But we also realize that this song, even as a spoof, reflects the attitude of some people.

We might like to think that there is but one Gospel – a Gospel of good news proclaiming that mutual respect is to be share among all people; and that Jesus loves not only me, but you, whoever you may be. But we know that even within the Christian Church the Gospel is interpreted and proclaimed in so many ways, some of which are not good news. A variety of religious and secular organizations determine who the good guys are and who are the bad guys – who is in and who is out. Often the standard is determined by delineating prejudices. Racial and ethnic preferences often set the stage

for those that “Jesus loves” and those who deserve to “fry.” Those born with an alternative sexual orientation are usually included with those deserving to “fry.”

In a Sunday school class recently one of the members pointed out that some look at God as a teacher who keeps a score chart on each student to determine what grade that child will receive at the end of the term. Some score high and others low. If God is like the teacher, some pass and others don’t. Some people go to heaven and others go to hell. It’s all quite simple. High scores are given to those who attend church, who send their children to Sunday school, and who give large financial support to their church. Helping the helpless, giving food and drink to the hungry and thirsty, and putting an arm around a migrant are not included in the high scores. The class was not cynical but understood how in business some are faithful to their church but don’t practice ethical Christian behavior at work.

The trouble with “Jesus loves me but he can’t stand you” is that Jesus probably would not have made it to heaven. He associated with all sorts of derelicts and was criticized for the company he kept. He disregarded some of the Jewish laws by healing and feeding people on the Sabbath day, and

noted that some of the least of humanity would enter heaven before the self-righteous.

When we entertain judgment about who God loves and who God can’t stand, we’d better be cautious not to exclude anyone from the love of God. God’s love is universal. The incarnation of Love into human life was a demonstration of God’s compassion for us and God’s willingness to share in our struggle with good and evil. This focus of eternal love into life was initiated not to condemn us, but to give us a new birth of the Spirit. This gift is not forced on us, and many may not choose to accept it. But whether or not one accepts the gift, love remains faithful: Jesus loves me and he loves you too.

The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-Charge

Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

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