Friday, 23 April 2021

Believing in Jesus gives me purpose

THE best two minutes of my priest’s training were when we were asked to find a fellow student we didn’t know well and ask each other the question “Why am I a Christian?”

I am sorry, all ye great theological colleges, but that has probably proved more useful than the many hours of church history, philosophy etc, which have their place, but are not at the top of most people’s “must read” list.

Perhaps the first question, though, should have been “What is a Christian, anyway?” as I suspect many of us wouldn’t feel too confident about venturing an answer.

Answers are often pretty negative… “a reactionary who still insists on going to church, can’t think why” or “someone who’s no better than they should be but thinks they are”.

So, how do we answer that preliminary question? The bottom line is surely simple: a Christian is someone who follows Jesus Christ. It’s not primarily about what we believe, but whom we believe and therefore trust, to be our guide and inspiration through life.

Who else might be in the running? It’s tempting to want to put people on pedestals, only to find ourselves taking delight in knocking them down again.

The Bible’s warnings against judgmentalism are all too relevant. Unfortunately, clay feet are a universal part of our self-assembly kit. So, as those clay feet are exposed, politicians, gurus, best-sellers, (algorithms?) — all will bite the dust.

But Jesus, remarkably, has survived pretty well intact. Still standing after 2,000 years (or perhaps not remarkably if he is indeed the son of God). Few, if any, speak ill of him, whatever they may feel about the idiocy or irrelevance of some of his followers.

All the current uncertainties around the pandemic, employment, Brexit, climate change etc, challenge us as to whether or not we have any kind of firm foundation to our lives, whether there is a rock on which we can stand as all these waves crash around us.

Given the increasing number of calls on our mental health services, the answer would often appear to be “no” but, for me, and for my fellow student, Jesus is that rock.

I cannot make any sense of him, as I meet him in the gospels, other than to believe that he is who he says he is — the way, the truth and the life, risen from the dead, the same yesterday, today and forever.

If you see church as a relic from a bygone age and Christians as somewhat similar may I ask how you see Jesus and on what do you base your opinion?

Don’t be swayed by hearsay or half-remembered Sunday school stories but have a read of Luke’s biography in a good modern version and see what you think.

You might also like to ask yourself “Whom do I follow now? Who influences my decision-making, my views?’ A person, a peer group, a newspaper, a range of blogs? Do they provide a sense of purpose, of stability of hope? Might Jesus?

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