Pause for thought: Jesus says “yes”
Earlier this week I was interviewed for a podcast about how young people view faith. I had been invited to impart and share my experience and wisdom. In the end, though, it was a humbling experience as it was me who ended up learning from, and being inspired by, the two young Christian interviewers! At one point they explained that young people today, who are so often missing from our church pews and seats, are tired of being chastised about what they do and what they believe. As they described this to me, I couldn't help but picture the receptionist in Little Britain, the BBC comedy from a number of years back, banging at her laptop keys and then looking up and announcing glibly: “computer says no”. Is this how our faith is seen by people today? Are we seen as surly, judgemental hypocrites, announcing to the world that: “church says no”?
If so, this is a huge challenge to us as Christians, and it is so different from the Jesus we read about in the gospels. The woman accused of adultery didn’t feel judged by Jesus, neither did the children running up to him, nor the woman who washed his feet with perfume, nor the unscrupulous tax collector. Quite the opposite. They felt loved, accepted, and welcomed, whatever their flaws.
In fact, it was often the disciples in the background who were sniping and criticising those approaching Jesus. And so we need to ask who we are more like today? The Jesus who asserted “let the children come to me” or the disciples who frowned and complained at the noisy youngsters? The Jesus who asserted “let whoever is without sin cast the first stone” or the uptight, judgmental people who grabbed the nearest rocks? The Jesus who sat and ate with broken people or the religious leaders who viewed those on the margins of their society as unclean and beyond redemption?
Jesus has gifted us a liberating and compassionate faith of hope, centred on a God of love. Yet we Christians too often want to criticise, belittle, and condemn, and, as a result, it leaves both others and us in chains. No wonder our life-transforming, love-centred way of living is now too-often simply seen as a backward, hypocritical superstition. In secular terms, it could be said that our faith needs a good PR job. But we are not secular people. We are people of faith. And so we don't need spin doctors to save us. Our salvation is already guaranteed and our call is simply to live out Jesus's revolutionary way-of-being for all to see and to share our life-giving and liberating faith with others. “Church says no”? Well, Jesus is opening his arms to welcome all God’s children and is very definitely saying “yes”!
Revd Dr Canon Trystan Owain Hughes