Now if Jesus were here, I think we’d find Him today
Down at Johnny’s Cafe
This is, of course, the sort of punch line of the song. After a verse of painting the very real folks at Johnny’s Cafe and another verse for the somewhat less than real people that you often can find at church, the last line of the song reveals that Jesus would prefer to be with the Johnny’s Cafe crowd. This observation is supported by the statements of Jesus that He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Jesus did not come to make good people better, but to save those who are lost.
Now the truth of the matter is that the people in church are just as lost as the people at Johnny’s, it’s just that often, a constant diet of church can make you forget. You start to assume that you are somewhat better than those unchurched people out there, just because anyone can become quietly smug in their religious activity without even becoming aware of it. That is a big mistake, and it springs not from how you really are, but from how you perceive yourself.
Church can do that to you. Over time, it can make you think that reading your Bible, praying, attending church regularly and the “extra credit” mid-week attendance at a Bible study or fellowship group can subtly get you relying on these things and not the amazing grace that saved a wretch like you in the first place. When grace ceases to be so amazing, is when one’s perception of oneself becomes skewed, you suddenly find your wagon running in a rut on the Pharisee Road.
Grace ceases to be so amazing when you are no longer the wretch that grace saved. Somehow, all the religious things in your life make you feel you are a little less of the wretch that you once were. But just think about that a little bit. Is that true? Are you less of a bad person? Do you not need quite the grace you once needed? Do you need only half a dose of grace now that your life is on a better trajectory? Somewhat amazing grace that saved somewhat of a wretch like me? Does any of this make sense or does it sound ridiculous? It sounds ridiculous because it is. No one becomes less of a sinner, only better at concealing it.
We don’t need to go back to some past time when we needed God’s amazing grace. We need His amazing grace now. We need it more than ever. And if there is any change in the perception of our own sin, it should be a deeper grasp of its horror in our lives and what we have done to hurt others. We find out that we are more of a sinner that we thought; we find out how subtle our sin is, and how deep it goes. So that grace today is even more amazing than it ever was. It never will be less amazing; always more.