Well ... I hate to burst your bubble ... but no, he doesn't. They are not his primary concern.
I started a bit of a firestorm on Facebook last week when I linked to a blog post entitled "On Being Made and Ever Re-Made: Of Baptism and Communion" by Fr. Robert Hendrickson of Christ Episcopal Church in New Haven, CT. In it Fr. Hendrickson argues against giving Communion to unbaptized persons - a conversation currently happening within the Episcopal Church. Those who argue for communing the unbaptized base their position that Jesus welcomed everybody and that we need to emulate his "radical hospitality." Fr. Hendrickson argues (and I concur) that offering the sacrament to the unbaptized is, in essence, putting the cart before the horse as baptism is the sacrament of initiation into the Body of Christ and Communion is the sacrament of ongoing transformation as we live into our baptismal covenant and grow into the full stature of Christ. I highly recommend you read his posting as he articulates this position most eloquently.
So why the firestorm on Facebook? Well, some of my dear friends from church believe strongly in communing the unbaptized. One friend posted that communing the unbaptized went beyond "radical hospitality." She posted:
Jesus wants us to reflect his Love to one another and anything that is exclusionary, an "us and you" type of mind set does not do that. If I go into a church and am not "allowed" to take communion because I have not been baptized, I am automatically going to feel inferior, unaccepted, and different. I don't think that is what Christ is about and I think Jesus would NOT be happy.She clearly articulated a position which is being discussed in the church and several others shared similar feelings in their posts too. While I do not agree with communing the unbaptized, I deeply respect their concern about welcoming those outside the Church and share their concern about how we best do it. We are living in time of greater secularization and we need to be welcoming unchurched people into our communities and inviting them to know Jesus Christ. We are wrestling with being inclusive without losing our identity as Christians. We agree that Jesus wants us to show love for one another without exception. But is having a boundary the same as being unloving?
In our culture, we seem to think of being "loving" is being "nice." Any parent who is doing their job of parenting knows that there are times when the most loving thing you can do is let your kid take their lumps in life - it's called "tough love" and it's the hardest thing a parent ever has to do. Love is "strong as death" (Song of Songs 8:6).
Love clearly is more than a feeling - it is a willful commitment to another and a commitment to an intimate relationship which ideally seeks the best for the other person. Not that feelings aren't involved in a love relationship, but feelings are only a part of what it means to love.
My friend's post had many feeling words in it: "inferior," "unaccepted," "different," and "Jesus would NOT be happy." (I confess I am an NT on the Myers-Briggs which doesn't make me the most "feely" kind of person - so she is one of my treasured friends who helps me with this.) Her passion for welcoming the stranger and her Christian faith are strong. Her post made me think more deeply about whether or not Jesus really cares much about our feelings. If Jesus were primarily concerned about feelings, would he have ...
- Called the Pharisees a "brood of vipers"? (Matthew 3:7, 12:34, 23:33; Luke 3:7)
- Told Peter "Get behind me Satan"? (Matthew 16:23, Mark 8:33)
- Repeatedly called the scribes and Pharisees "hypocrites"? (citations too numerous to mention)
- Said to the crowd "You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you?" (Matthew 17:17, Mark 9:19, Luke 9:41)
- Taken a bull whip to the money changers in the Temple?
- Let the rich young man just walk away without an offer to renegotiate the terms of "sell everything you have and give it to the poor, then follow me"? (Mark 10:21, Luke 18:22)
I don't believe Jesus cares much about our feelings, or our thoughts for that matter, as an ultimate concern. He does, however, care about our right relationship with God and others - and certainly feelings can be a part of that, but they aren't the end goal. To stop with feelings or thoughts would be to sell us short and I don't think Christ wants to sell us short. His ultimate concern is with our conversion, repentance and renewal. And conversion, repentance and renewal don't always feel good.
The scriptures tell us that for the oppressed and abused, Jesus gave them back their dignity and restored them to the fullness of their humanity. Whether that was healing the lepers, restoring sight to the blind, giving hearing to the deaf, or raising the dead, Jesus lifted up those who were marginalized and abused by society. He restored them to their rightful status as God's children. This probably felt very good to those who had been downtrodden. However, the scriptures also tell us that Jesus used harsh words (and sometimes actions) on those who were resistant to his message - he even laid into his disciples on occasion! I'm sure this didn't feel very good. Sometimes the truth hurts. But Jesus was more interested in the truth than he was about whether he had hurt the feelings of those he confronted.
So I'm sorry to be the one to burst your bubble. Jesus really doesn't care about your feelings as something of ultimate worth. He cares about something far more lasting and important - your very life.