So, as Bob Dylan once wrote, ‘The times they are a changin’. I’m currently in the process of a shift in work, lifestyle and (to use a horrible Christian jargon term) ministry. One thing that has come out of the countless application forms, retellings of my life story and newsletter writings that have characterised the last few months, is that I find writing incredibly therapeutic. Also, every once in a while some reads through my poorly constructed prose and gleans some kind of encouragement from it. With this in mind I’ve decided to start sharing my thoughts in a ‘blog’ of sorts. Being lazy and increasingly technophobic this format will have to do for now. So, if for some unknown reason you decided to read any of this, read it in the understanding that it’s more for me than for you. Something about attempting to communicate my thoughts in a way which others can see is a salve to my over-active ADHD brain.
My musing for today is this…. What a curious thing it is for us Christians to claim to be ‘In the presence of God’? Having read the Old (and New) testament quite a few times it seems pretty clear that God is not a fan of what us Christians call ‘sin’. This is basically an old fashioned way of describing a cock-up, a little foible or a monumentally destructive behaviour. These leaves me with a problem, because (don’t tell anyone) I make a lot of those. And I don’t mean in a polite preacher’s false humility kind of way, I mean I’m a bit of a bastard. I remember reading somewhere many years ago in a little ‘Thought for the day’ words to the effect of “as the years go by I’m more amazed at the goodness of God and more ashamed at the blackness of my own heart”. Those were the probably the first words of extra-biblical Christian literature that I really connected with.
There is this great dilemma of the goodness of God and the incredible fallibility of humans, especially humans like me. We Christians preach a God of forgiveness and mercy, but how often do we really live like we believe it? How often have we cast and angry eye at the behaviour of others to mask the shame of our own actions and attitudes? The late great preacher and lifelong alcoholic Brennan Manning said this:
“French philosopher Blaise Pascal said. ‘God made man in his own image, and man returned the compliment’ – the God of so many Christians is as superficial, petty and judgemental as they are”
More words which resonate with me. My only concern is that many in what is known as the ’emerging church’ seem to take these ideas too far, and somehow lessen the weight of the very sin which led God to sacrifice his own son, something of himself, to be tortured and killed as a sacrifice in our place. And at that pivotal moment in history (without getting into a debate about how God exists in linear time) the unrelenting hatred of sin and unimaginable mercy of God are acted out on a hill in an area of the world which has seen little of peace and forgiveness since. Utterly mind blowing.
So here I sit, a couple of millennia later, still wrestling with, and at once comforted by, an idea which the mightiest empires known to man have tried to crush. Which has outlived countless sects, wars, philosophies and nations. Which has brought the most savage of men to their knees and strengthened and empowered the weakest of underdogs. Maybe I’m to be scorned for still being fixated on this most basic tenet of the Christian faith, or maybe this glorious juxtaposition is the foundation upon which all we understand about Our God is built. I am loved.
Much peace to all.
(Photo by Rich Pearce instagram @rich_)