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'The blood of Jesus!' What?


Thursday, March 14, 2019

My pastor, Rev Karl Henlin of the Gregory Park Circuit of Baptist Churches, triggered the seed thought behind this article in a private conversation. However, he cannot be held responsible for where I am about to go with and beyond the seed thought.

He said words to the effect: “Chissy, if the blood of Jesus is a metaphor for the life of Jesus, why do Christians almost always 'plead the blood' against people and not for people?”

Yes, why?

My mischievous mind tells me that for most of the Christians who plead the blood of Jesus do not really understand what they are doing/saying, or else they use the expression as a kind of good luck charm or protective magic wand?

If we are not careful, the situation in evangelical churches, where the epithet “the blood of Jesus” is most widely used, rises no higher in content or efficacy than when the sons of Sceva, in Acts 19:11-20, attempted to cast out a demon by use of the formula: “I command you in the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches to come out of him.” To which the demon retorted, “Paul I know, Jesus I know, but who are you guys?” The demon-possessed man proceeded to give the boys a thrashing.

I grew up as a young Christian in a church where occasionally exorcism sessions would take place. In my visits to other similar assemblies I have always heard the lead exorcist commanding the demon loudly to leave the person. The volume level used struck me as odd. And I recall asking mischievously if demons have hearing difficulties why the tradition of exorcism was always with a loud command. Is it really volume or authority that is needed, I would ask, and got politely dismissed.

Regrettably, I find that Church folk do not often give serious thought to popular expressions used a lot in Church circles. If we are not careful to engage brain and heart in worship we end up using religious statements that lack depth in meaning or that are not quite sensible.

While I was in the pastorate I would deliberately prompt reflection on some church traditions with prior warning of what I am about to do, and use as my defence the repeated self-description, “I am half-crazy.” So, one Christmas morning after the congregation had sung the first stanza of Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, I asked if anyone knew what he word “hark' meant, and there was silence for a while, then one person whispered that it was the name of the angel. The adjective herald before angel posed problems as well.

Another nice-sounding but terribly misunderstood spiritual cliché in some church circles is the one, “It's the anointing that breaks the yoke.” That wording has no biblical reference (not even in the old King James Version) and the closest text that could be appealed to (Isaiah 10:27), in context, means nothing like what most Christians think it means.

It is the responsibility of pastors and lay preachers to educate the people who worship in our assemblies so that they are able, on their own, eventually, to make sense of what they read in the Bible, and as well the popular statements used in churches.


Rev Clinton Chisholm is academic dean at Caribbean Graduate School of Theology. Send comments to the Observer or