Friday, 28 May 2010

It is not what Jesus does...

.. it's what he says that I have a problem with. That's what Mrs Soprano says to her Priest. When she said it I couldn't help but feel just how accurately this summed up many people's views of Jesus today. They like the idea of a guy who goes around feeding people and healing people and all of that. It's just when Jesus opens his mouth to talk that we have a problem.

We don't like it when Jesus talks about the fact that none of us are perfect and as such none of us are good enough for God. We don't like it when Jesus bangs on about being the only way to God and heaven. We don't like it when Jesus keeps insisting that his death is the thing which really matters and we don't liken it when Jesus talks about the judgment we will have to face if we reject his offer of forgiveness!

It strikes me that many people blandly say that Jesus was a decent enough person without really knowing what he said. If you actually listen to what Jesus said then he was not just a nice guy who did a few nice things but doesn't have anything to say to you. No he is a man who says extreme things which you have to do something with. At least Carmella is trying to engage with the stuff Jesus said unlike most people who assume it's just nice soundbites which it's fine to ignore.

Why not read something Jesus said (you could start with this?) and start thinking about if he was mad, bad or the God in human form he claimed to be!

Saturday, 22 May 2010


As I was driving around Hartlepool the other day I saw this advert. Now whilst understanding the premise and generally being a fan of doing your own cooking I couldn't help but think of another advert which says 'Time - You won't find it in home baking'

However, I have found it a strangely thought provoking advert. You see it works on the premise that we all want to believe that we have achieved something. We want to feel that we have worked hard and that we have done something which we can be proud of. I can't help but wonder if this is why biblical Christianity is so unpopular. Biblical Christianity says that actually you can't do anything to make yourself good enough for God. You can't work hard, do the right stuff and achieve some level where you'll be good enough for God. No Biblical Christianity says that you are not good enough for God and that even your best attempts are rubbish. Biblical Christianity says that what we need is someone else to do the work for us. It's the ready meal approach. Biblical Christianity shows us that even though we're well off the mark we can be forgiven and made good enough not through our own efforts but through Jesus dying to take the punishment we deserve and giving us a new heart which means that one day, in heaven, we will be perfect.

Like this advert acknowledges people like pride. You can find pride in being a good person and feeling that you've managed to become a pretty nice person. You can find pride in your intellect and believing that you're cleverer than others. You can find pride in the way you care for people. You can find pride in your religious activities, your praying, church attendance, giving to charity, bead work etc. However you can't find it in Christianity. I wonder if this is why hedonism, moralism and religion are so popular but genuine Christianity is not. The problem with pride is that if you're not feeling proud, if you've had a bad day or realised your not as good as you thought you were, then you so easily slump into despair. So we have this weird mix in our society of pride and low self esteem as people battle to feel superior but when they fail end up feeling rubbish. Christianity should leave no place for either.

Pride - You won't find it in Christianity but you will find forgiveness, relationship with God and a future based not on you making an impossible grade but on grace!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Counselling does not deal with the soul

Or so Carmela Soprano says. On hearing that her husband is going to therapy she says that is doesn't deal with the soul, that's something else, but it's a start.

I found this a fascinating comment on the way our society thinks of the soul and of religion. People seem to think of religion as basically counselling with a spiritual edge. So Carmela thinks that ordinary counselling is good but religion is better. It strikes me that many religious people think like this and that most people think of religion as sort of some weird form of counselling! People who are struggling in life can find help in counselling but religion might prove a cheaper option!

However, despite all the depressing assumptions she seems to be making about Christianity what she says is ultimately right. Counselling may be good but ultimately it cannot deal with the soul. She speaks better than she knows. Lots of people, Christians included, have things which they need to get out and talk through with someone, this is a good thing and it worries me that so many Christians are so insular. However, talking through issues is not really what Christianity is about. Church is not a place for people simply to talk about the different life pressures they have. No Christianity is a place which offers you a way to sort out our soul.

Humanity's problem is not something that can be solved merely by counselling (helpful though it may be). No our problem is that we have a propensity to do bad things and to not do good things. What we need is to find forgiveness and some hope that this can change. Counselling and self help cannot do this so Jesus dies to make it possible. He pays the price for our sin so that we can be forgiven and he offers salvation to our soul so we can look forward to being perfect in his new perfect world. Christianity is not and must not be simply a spiritual version of counselling because ultimately it offers forgiveness and salvation for our soul which no counsellor can grant us!