taking the words of Jesus seriously

I wish I had a nickle for every time God spoke to me through Elvis. Like Elvis’ song “A Little Less Conversation”:

A little less conversation, a little more action please;

All this aggravation ain’t satisfactionin’ me;

A little more bite and a little less bark;

A little less fight and a little more spark;

Close your mouth and open up your heart, and satisfy me.

Sure, on the surface it’s just another Elvis song pleading with a woman for some more active lovin’; but when paired with the Gospels, with repeated teachings of Jesus, and particularly Jesus’ parable of the Sheep and the Goats (see Matthew 25:31-46), it’s just as clearly a song that can be heard as Jesus’ pleading with the Church for some more active… well… lovin’.

Mohandas Gandhi read the Gospels, particularly the Sermon on the Mount, and was forever changed. Jesus is the Way to follow! But you know the rest of the story: Gandhi looked up and saw the British Empire with swords drawn oppressing and exploiting the people and the land of his beloved India, all in the name of Christianity.

Gandhi declared that he, therefore, could not be a Christian.

Novelist Anne Rice not long ago became a Christian; she turned her attention to writing fiction about Jesus’ childhood. Everybody was so excited that the novelist known for her incredibly dark vampire stories had become a Christian … Until about a year ago when she publicly stated that she quit being a Christian, because she’d rather follow Christ.

One cannot help but wonder if Jesus, like Gandhi and Anne Rice, would look around at popular Christianity today and say, “if this is Christianity, then…”

One has to ask of Americanized Christianity, “What Would Jesus Do?”

Imagine Jesus sitting in the wings at one of our big stadium-filled “I’m-a-Christian” prayer celebrations, when a superstar walks up to the microphone and reads from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 25:

Then the king will say to those on his right hand, “Come you that are blessed by my Father, inherit this great kingdom prepared for you by your founding fathers,

for I was a Christian politician, and you voted for me;

for I was a Christian businessman, and you spent your money at my store to support ‘Kingdom Values’;

I was a cute slogan bumper sticker and you proudly put me on your car;

I was a bill protecting ‘Christian values, ‘ and you helped to get me enacted into law…

Of course, that’s not what Matthew 25 actually says. It’s about feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, caring for the sick, visiting the prisoner – about anytime we do anything for “the least of these” we are serving Jesus Himself; and when we don’t do anything for “the least of these” we’re also walking away from Jesus Himself.

We all know the great song, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” We’ve been taught in our churches, though, that what that really means is “They will know we are Christians by our loud proclamations.”

A Christian athlete recently shared his testimony with a group of Christian students. The athlete spoke of hard decisions he has had to make as a Christian. He spoke sincerely of tough decisions which tested his commitment to his Christian faith.

The athlete talked about his friend who, after some struggling, decided she was not a heterosexual. The athlete wondered what he should do; he remembered the story of Jonah – how when Jonah was running from God and was on the ship, the crew of the ship threw Jonah overboard. Thus, the athlete shared that it was his Christian duty to “throw” his friend “overboard” … meaning he couldn’t be her friend anymore based on her sexuality.

The Christian culture we live in teaches us how to talk a lot about Jesus, yet it has hardly anything to do with helping us learn how to love like Jesus. Would Jesus throw someone overboard? Of course not! Our churches, though, teach us how to throw all kinds of people overboard everyday.

It doesn’t take long to conclude that if Jesus stood here today, He might well say “If this is Christianity, then I am NOT a Christian.”

When it comes to a Christ-like message, very much in keeping with the Sheep and the Goats, few things can match the simple message of Elvis’ hit, “A Little Less Conversation.”

Want to serve Jesus? Talk less; love more. Close your mouths and open up your hearts.

“Satisfy me, Baby!”

The Words of our Lord (paraphrased by Elvis). Thanks be to God.

Bert Montgomery is a writer, minister and college lecturer living in Starkville, Mississippi. His new book is Psychic Pancakes & Communion Pizza (2011, Smyth & Helwys).

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About The Author


Bert Montgomery grew up outside of New Orleans, lived in Memphis, and dearly loves the state that connects the two. He has interviewed legendary folksinger Arlo Guthrie, members of the Allman Brothers and Tedeschi Trucks Bands, and even the deceased monk Thomas Merton. Bert has written about everything from prayer to great hymns, from gender identity to board games, from horror movies and classic comedies to Mardi Gras and sports, and a whole lot about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in the midst of it all. His book include Of Mice and Ministers, Psychic Pancakes & Communion Pizza, and Elvis, Willie, Jesus & Me. His day jobs (most writers have day jobs) involve teaching sociology and religion courses at Mississippi State University and also pastoring University Baptist Church, Starkville.

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