Singer James Brown felt good. In his own words: “I feel good, I knew that I would, now. So good, so good, I got you”. The source of his joy was the unnamed “you” at the centre of the song. Knowing what I know about Mr. Brown, it’s pretty safe to say the he wasn’t referring to Jesus.
Jesus never promised to make us “feel good”. Jesus loves us, helps us, draws us into God’s heart and calls us to love others as we would be loved, but Jesus never, ever promises to make us feel good or to make others feel good, either.
Bear with me. What I mean by feeling good in this context, is a vague, vapid sense of self-satisfied smugness that pours out from some folks, like the ones on “The 700 Club”. Jesus will make everything all right, the perfectly coiffed, immaculately groomed hosts tell us. They smile warmly as they tell you that your suffering is only part of God’s plan, and that your pain will part of God’s plan. They feel good because of Jesu, and Jesus will make you feel good, especially if you tell others how Jesus can make them feel good, too.
Unfortunately, Jesus did not come simply to make us feel good. He did not come so that we might have a smug smile because we have prayed the sinner’s prayer and now we’re saved and that’s all we need.
Jesus came to challenge the complacent into action. He came to heal the broken, not simply so that they would feel good, but as a sign of His power over things of both heaven and earth. Sometimes those healings were political statements, as Jesus reached out to those nobody else would approach because they were unclean, or women or just not the right type of person.
Jesus overturned the tables of those making a profit for themselves in God’s name, just as He flipped upside-down the poor religious wisdom about what it took to be a Godly person. Jesus told the rich to give away their money and praised the poor widow who gave away everything she had. Jesus annoyed the authorities and only gave Caesar what Caesar was due.
Jesus does nothing simply to make us feel good. He loves us so we can better love others. He forgives us on the condition that we forgive those who have hurt us. He welcomes us to breakfast only to invite us to feed His sheep. He takes off our heavy burden and replaces it with one we can handle. He makes us feel holy, whole, healed, helpful, hopeful and many other things, but never simply as an end in itself. If we feel good, it’s because we are being pushed to make God feel good. And better than feeling good, through Jesus, we can feel like we’re part of a greater good that I can’t even begin to describe.