“Reach out and touch faith
Your own personal Jesus Someone to hear your prayers Someone who cares Your own personal Jesus Someone to hear your prayers Someone who’s there…”
Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” is one of those songs that have relevance for multiple reasons. Rhythmically the song is as contemporary now as it ever was, you might even say it was ahead of its time.
Lyrically the song was really pertinent at the time because it seemed in some ways to be a sort of backlash against the rise of the Tele-Evangelist in the late 1980s; at least there is a subtle reference to that in the language of the song, for example:
And you’re all alone
Flesh and bone
By the telephone
Lift up the receiver
I’ll make you a believer”
Images of Jim & Tammy Fay Bakker or Jimmy Swaggart might especially come to mind as they were at the height of their ministry just before their subsequent falls at the time. However, the writers of the song weren’t simply addressing the TV preachers of their time, rather, they were addressing the individual needs of people to have a savior.
Think about it. The invoking of the name of Jesus calls to mind the divine and sacred—and it forces people to think of the significance of a savior LIKE Jesus, without having to really come to grips with THE SAVIOR Jesus. How did this come about? Well, according to a Rolling Stone article from years ago the biography, Elvis and Me, about Pricilla Presley’s life with her late husband Elvis had inspired the notion of Elvis as a kind of savior to Pricilla.
Searching out saviors isn’t foreign to our own personal story, some turn to drink, or drug, or sex, or to self-glorification. But then again some people turn to saviors who are either close family members or friends. Jesus even encountered this notion of making idols out of the people we love, for example in Luke 14, Jesus said:
“Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
Now harsher words may have never been spoken, but Jesus is using a method of argumentation to make a point. Jesus doesn’t mean we should hate one of the greatest gifts we have been given (that would mean breaking God’s Law), like friends and family. No, Jesus means that our love for the Person of Jesus should be so great in comparison to all other loves that it would almost seem like hatred to others by way of contrast.
Personal Jesus expresses a longing for a personal savior in fleshly form, for Pricilla Presley that may have been Elvis, for others it could be sports figures and other entertainment icons, or people in our family, or even our very children. People that we have not only looked to for inspiration but have actually placed our hopes, dreams, and aspirations upon; perhaps even putting them on a pedestal where you might even say they are worshipped.
But the Gospel tells us that the longing for a personal savior in fleshly form is found in no one else than Jesus Christ; God in the flesh, who became a person to be personally known. Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus challenges believers to think about the idols that take human form but are mere shadows of what we find in Christ. And to unbelievers the song talks about the longing to be saved and rescued by a someone and to that we turn to another song from a different time and a different day, it goes like this:
“We have heard the joyful sound: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Spread the tidings all around: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Bear the news to every land,Climb the steeps and cross the waves; Onward!—’tis our Lord’s command; Jesus saves! Jesus saves!”
And not the Jesus that we create, but the Jesus who created creation and then became a person to be personally known. A.K.A. the word that became flesh (John 1:1-14).
Next time onR3Din the culture segment we will be taking on the Terminator franchise in something I am calling “John Connor and Jesus Christ: Terminator in Light of the Gospel”