Jesus juke is a term coined by Christian author Jon Acuff in 2010 on his blog Stuff Christians Like. The word juke is a term used most often in sports, referring to a deceptive action in which a player moves one direction, then suddenly shifts to another direction. A head fake in basketball is an example of a juke. Acuff describes a Jesus juke as happening when someone turns a light conversation into something serious and “holy.” An example of a Jesus juke can be seen in this conversation:
Friend 1: “I can’t believe I spent six hours watching that show!”
Friend 2: “What if you’d spent six hours in prayer instead?”
A Jesus juke can make verbal conversations uneasy and bring online conversations to a halt. No matter how good the intentions, bringing in Jesus “out of nowhere” and inserting a bit of preachiness into an unrelated conversation does not do much to advance the cause of Christ.
The inevitable result of a Jesus juke is that someone is shamed. The person who turns the conversation can often make the other person feel spiritually inferior. Talking about faith and Jesus is wonderful and indeed something Christians should practice, but making conversational feints can be off-putting and can appear judgmental and condemning. The aim of faith-based questions or comments should never be to disrespect or diminish another person. Philippians 2:3 tells us, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”
A Jesus juke rarely leads to productive, healthy conversation (and is unlikely to convert an unbelieving heart). More often, those shaming remarks will lead to awkwardness, silence, and frustration. Instead of trying to one-up a fellow believer with a high-and-mighty religious comment, our goal should be to spread encouragement and love (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Romans 12:10). We should “spur one another on toward love and good deeds . . . encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24–25).
It is profitable to examine Jesus’ conversations with people, such as His exchange with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). He begins the conversation by simply asking for a drink, and she replies, probably rather curtly, that it wasn’t culturally acceptable for Him to speak to her. Jesus piques her interest by suggesting that He give her water instead—living water, He says. From there, the conversation naturally progresses until they are having a full-blown spiritual discussion. Jesus used no jukes; He carefully guided the conversation into spiritual themes.
Of course, there is a place for exhortation and rebuke in a conversation. But such matters should be approached candidly, as we speak the truth in love. We should not resort to surprise attacks or “gotcha” tactics or seek to insert unexpected words of guilt into a conversation. In other words, we should avoid using Jesus jukes.