Jay Bakker and Learning To “Smell” Like Jesus

imageI’m reading a lot of Christian books lately and some of the best books I’ve read have stemmed from hearing an interview with the author beforehand. Someone just intrigues me and I think, “I gotta read that book.”

So I was listening to Jay Bakker, son of former PTL leaders Jim & Tammy Bakker, being interviewed by Christian radio host Steve Brown and I thought to myself, “I gotta read his book”.

The book is Bakker’s newest entitled Faith, Doubt, and Other Lines I’ve Crossed and is a collection of devotions and musings on his relationship with God throughout the upheaval of the PTL scandal, his mother’s death, the breakdown of his marriage, and his public advocacy for gay rights. Through it all he has discovered a hope in Jesus Christ that underpins his faith in a way that former theological correctness and “certainty” was never able to produce.

Throughout the book Bakker unpacks an understanding of God’s grace that has transformed his life (including being freed from alcoholism) and which he has humbly embraced and shares with others. He argues that it is really a limiting of grace or putting conditions on grace that robs grace of it’s power to transform lives for Christ.

We might not have earned grace before we received it but we think we have to continually earn it again now that it’s ours. We do this simply because we want to have some control of grace. We want even the smallest ability to claim that we have somehow earned this grace because then we can have some measure of certainty that we’ve got it. Which allows us in turn to say that other people don’t have it…

…Christians are always looking for someone or something that grace can’t cover. So we end up putting restrictions on grace. – Jay Bakker

While listening to Steve Brown interviewing Bakker before I read the book I was struck by the affection and respect each had for the other. Now understand, Brown is no “liberal” Christian. In fact he often jokes on his show that he is an “old, conservative, white guy.” But Brown also has a healthy cross section of Christianity represented in the people he interviews. Someone like Bakker one week and Mark Driscoll the next. (Could you get more opposite?)


I say all that as preface to a remark Brown made that I have been musing in my head since I first heard it. He said during the interview with Bakker something along the lines of, “I don’t necessarily agree with you on some things, but Jay, you smell like Jesus!”

That was it!

That was the answer to a question that has been stirring in me for the last year or so. I kept wondering why some Christians or Christian leaders who I tended to agree with theologically were somewhat alienating to me. Why did fellow believers, whose “statement of faith” often echoed my own, seem so distant and foreign?

And yet other Christians, who I may disagree with on some key points, nevertheless attract me much more to what they are saying and doing.

And then it hit me…

Because they smelled like Jesus.

When it comes down to it, these days I am much more interested in smelling like Jesus than making sure my theology is “orthodox” and my belief system lines up exactly with the ‘statement of faith’ sported on the website of nearly every evangelical church.

Let me qualify that I am a supporter of creedal statements like the Apostle’s and Nicene creeds


there are many reading this that may think that theological unity or creedal belief is what keeps the church from steering off course.

News flash!
…we’re already off course.

We got off course when we placed ideological conformity ahead of loving God.

We got off course when we placed ‘statements of faith’ ahead of loving people

We got off course when we placed a ‘Christian’ religious system ahead of loving our enemies.

Reading Jay Bakker’s book I realized he is a flawed man wrestling through the personal challenges he’s been dealt, but through it all he strives to smell like Jesus.

I’ve made it my goal to smell more like Jesus as well. And I plan to pick up the scent by hanging out with other people that smell like Jesus.



  • Glenda

    Good post…we say Jay Bakker interviewed a few years back and were so impressed with him and his easy way of relating to Jesus. When we allow Jesus to love through us and stop being panicked and worried about what we think or believe, then we smell like Jesus.

  • Steve

    Thanks Glenda! Yep, panic and worry sure make us smell like “something else”

  • cgperks

    I think we “smelled like Jesus” when we were discussing this – WhooHoo!

Comments are closed.