A song from a career long, long ago and far, far away cued up on the iPod today. Right out of high school I worked as a disc jockey at a small radio station in Southern Ohio. I remember being so excited to play a song from The Doobie Brothers called “Jesus Is Just Alright”. The song was also recorded by The Byrds.
Hearing The Doobie Brothers sing about Jesus was pretty amazing in my still young faith journey. I was sure they had to be believers to release a song like this. I know. I was incredibly naive. Apparently none of the group was particularly religious but the song became an anthem for the incredible Jesus Movement that swept the land. My buddy Ed Underwood has written a great book about the power of that movement called Reborn To Be Wild.
I remember one critical Christian (hard to imagine that) hearing the song and smugly declaring that Jesus was “much more than just alright”. In one fell swoop he revealed both his judgmentalism and stupidity. He was apparently unaware that the slang term “just all right” was a phrase that meant “cool” or “very good”.
Jesus is just alright with me, Jesus is just alright, oh yeah
Jesus is just alright with me, Jesus is just alright
I don't care what they may say, I don't care what they may do
I don't care what they may say, Jesus is just alright, oh yeah
The theology may not challenge the great hymns but the reality is that the powerful name of Jesus was proclaimed to millions of people via radio and records who would not have heard it otherwise. Thousands and thousands more heard the name of Jesus in concerts around the world.
Paul wrote about the power given by God to the name of Jesus.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2, NLT)
Jesus is all right. He is Lord. He is merciful. He is, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, “not safe but He is good”. Jesus is humble. Jesus is grace. Jesus is everything. That is why I was excited to be able to cue up the name of Jesus on ancient turntables and vinyl discs many years ago. The name of Jesus proclaimed to the world annoys many, angers many and changes the very lives of many.
Jesus had contact with people 132 times in the New Testament according to author J K Johnson (adapted from Why Christians Sin, Discovery House, 1992). He notes that 10 of those where in church (temple and synagogue) and 122 were out in the mainstream of life. That is where we need to be proclaiming the name of Jesus.
We forget or choose to ignore how incredibly revolutionary Jesus was during His brief time of ministry. In his book Defiant Grace author Dane Ortlund says this.
The Jesus of the Gospels defies our domesticated, play-by-the-rules morality. It was the most extravagant sinners of Jesus’ day who received his most compassionate welcome; it was the most scrupulous law-abiders who received his most searing denunciation.
Another great quote from that book.
Jesus is real, grace is defiant, life is short, risk is good. For many of us the time has come to abandon once and for all our play-it-safe, toe-dabbling Christianity and dive in. It is time, as Robert Farrar Capon put it, to get drunk on grace. Two hundred-proof, defiant grace.
So a trip down memory lane reminded me anew of the power of Jesus name and how important that we proclaim that name to all the world in grace and truth. Today’s song has one more really important thing to communicate about Jesus to a hurting world. When you come into a saving relationship with Christ you can sing these amazing lyrics.
Jesus, He's my friend, Jesus, He's my friend. He took me by the hand, led me far from this land.
Jesus, He's my friend.