As a Christian leader I have a guilty secret, one that lurks at the back of my mind and occasionally leaps out and challenges me. It’s all to do with a very simple question, but a troublesome one, ‘Are you really a Christian?’ You see, when I became a Christian, my conversion bore little resemblance to the experience many Christians describe as being the one we should go through. As a minister, there is often a progression in my worry from there to the question ‘Are you good enough or qualified to be a Christian Minister?’ If the answer to the first question is shaky, then saying in yes to the second I am on dodgy ground indeed.
My first tack when the questions come is to recognize the nature of the questions; they are not unique to me. Adam and Eve were asked something similar by the serpent in the Garden of Eden, ‘Did God really say…?’ and Jesus was challenged by the Satan during his forty fast in the wilderness, ‘If you are the Son of God…’ in an attempt to provoke Jesus into questioning his status before his heavenly Father.
That aside, what is it about my conversion that troubles me? Often when I hear descriptions of what it means to become a Christian, there is an emphasis on repentance, on being sorry for the wrong that you have done, of feeling remorse and guilt. The thing is, when I became a Christian, I felt no such thing. There were no tears of shame. I did not beat my chest and despair of how sinful I was. All I remember was being intrigued and attracted to the life and teaching of Jesus.
I was reading this week about the Jewish aristocrat and historian Josephus this week, a near contemporary of Jesus. He was sent to quell the riotous behaviour of a bunch of hot headed Jews in Galilee which was threatening to attract retribution from Rome. When he met with the rebel leader he said some very familiar words, `repent and believe in me’, the exact words attributed to Jesus in the Gospels. What did he mean? He was demanding that the rebel gave up his agenda of rebellion and followed Josephus’ agenda instead; this is what the phrase meant at that time. And this is the crux of the Gospel. In it we encounter God’s Son who comes with the agenda of building God’s Kingdom and invites us to be part of that by setting aside our own agendas, our agendas of wealth and power and popularity and self-satisfaction, and take up his. Take up your cross, give up ownership of your life, and follow me. Sometimes I wish it was all about expressing remorse and sorrow, that sounds so much easier…
Church Newsletter Article 24.02.13