I love Easter. When I was a child I loved Easter because I got to eat lots of chocolate. Now I love Easter because I am a Christian and I still get to eat lots of chocolate! When I was a child I was taught about a Jesus who was a big softie and now as an adult I have got to know a Jesus who is as tough as old boots and still a big softie. Many times when I went to church as a child it felt like the cosiest club of all. It was so easy. You simply sat there and let the guy at the front do all the talking. Even when we sang hymns it was so easy to let other people sing for you and to drift away into your own thoughts. My experience was that it was all support and very little challenge and Jesus was often portrayed as the most traditional coach of all – low challenge, high support.
Yet if you have read the New Testament in any detail you will know that these are not the FACTS of Jesus. In His time Jesus was the most challenging coach of all. Here are some examples of Jesus in high challenge high support mode:-
‘You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesised about you ‘These people honour me with their lips but their hearts are far from me’’ – Matthew 15:7-8
‘Therefore keep watch because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known what time of night the thief was coming he would have kept watch and not let his house be broken into’ – Matthew 24:42-43
- Courageous Goals
‘I did not come to judge the world but to save the world’ – John 12:47
‘Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written’ he said to them ‘My house will be called a house of prayer but you are making it a den of thieves’ – Matthew 21:12-13
- Systems Thinking
‘’Remain in me and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “ – John 15: 4
In fact when you read the gospel in full you realise that Jesus might just as well have invented the zone of uncomfortable debate (ZOUD). There are so many times when He speaks His truth in a way that jars and exasperates the authorities around Him – none more so than when He is stood facing the Jewish High Priests shortly before his crucifixion. ‘Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God’ demands the big boss, Caiaphas, ‘Yes, it as you say’ Jesus replies (Matthew 26: 63-63) so condemning himself to the death penalty for blasphemy.
And finally, ‘build the contract, honour the contract’. The big one. The covenant. The promise. ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’. (Matthew 28: 19-20)
The Church I go to now is definitely not the cosy club. It is modern, open, informal and stripped of ritual. I feel ripped out of my comfort zone every time I walk through the doors. It is not easy since there is a lot of challenge. There is no big man at the front who does all the talking and who has all the answers. We all have to speak. We all have to pray. It is difficult to just sit there because everybody else is getting up and expressing themselves with an openness and a lack of self-consciousness that I have never previously associated with the Church. Yet it is incredibly refreshing and it is blowing away all my previous conceptions of traditional religion.
So the next time someone tells you that Jesus is a big softie you might remind them that this is only half the story. And the next time I dismiss traditional religion as the cosy club I will challenge myself to go beyond this limiting belief because it is not the FACTS of my most recent experience. It is great to eat chocolate at Easter and also to reflect on the original story that inspired this great holiday break. Thank you for indulging me in that. I hope you have a wonderful time with your families and loved ones.
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