Stop jumping through hoops!

Stop jumping through hoops!

Dr. John P. Davis

 The phrase “jumping through hoops” provokes the image of a circus where a man with a top hat and cane orchestrates clowns and animals that jump through hoops of flames for the entertainment of others. They have been trained for this exercise of entertainment and respond obsequiously to the motions of the Circus master.      “Jumping through hoops” is an idiom that implies “trying to meet exacting expectations.” It also implies that the behavior is so well trained that mature thought and reflection may not be needed.

How is it that many have created a perception that becoming a Christian is like “jumping through hoops” – i.e. that a relationship with Jesus Christ is all about trying to meet exacting expectations? Why are there so many hoops in American Christianity?

One reason is that we fail to understand the Simplicity of the Gospel: The gospel of Jesus Christ is all about what God has done for us, not what we can do for God. The gospel declares that God accepts sinners not on the basis of ‘how many hoops we can jump through’ but on the merits of Jesus Christ who died and rose again for sinners.

In the early history of the church, Jewish believers wanted Gentile converts to jump through the hoops of circumcision and obedience to the Law of Moses to be ‘real Christians.’ The apostle Peter affirmed that the gospel of salvation by grace through faith places everyone on equal ground. He said in Acts 15:11 – No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

The freeness of the gospel declares that there are no hoops to jump through in order for God to accept me and forgive me. I simply need to believe and accept his grace in Jesus Christ.

Another reason why there are so many hoops that we fail to think through the implications of the gospel. Understanding the gospel doesn’t simply answer the question  ‘how can I be sure of heaven?’ The gospel calls us to experience the joy of freedom  – freedom from ever needing to achieve God’s favor by my own effort. The gospel declares that in Christ I am forgiven, accepted, and secure forever.

This freedom creates the unparalleled joy of being a Christian. I have often likened riding my motorcycle to this joy of being a Christian. Were you to pass me some day on a country road coming from the other direction, you might see a big smile come across my face. I’ve probably just said, “thank you Lord for the grace and freedom of the gospel.”


Riding my Harley evokes thoughts of freedom in Christ

Eyes on the road

Twilight emerging

Whispering Wind

Sunset behind

Night and day converging



Refreshing cool breeze

A Breath of freedom

Fresh blooms of flowers

A new moon this hour

Goodbye to boredom


Thoughts of Christ

The giver of blessing

Secure in his grace

A Smile on my face

His name confessing


On September 10, 1970 I came to understand the great love of God for me, a sinner and a rebel. That evening I received God’s forgiveness and a new life through Jesus Christ, who died in my place and rose again to offer forgiveness and new life. I have been senior pastor for over 30 years planting two churches in Buckingham, PA and Queens, NY and serving two other churches in Brooklyn, NY and Roslyn, PA. I am currently the lead pastor at Grace Church of Philly.

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