More often than not, the subject of religion and spirituality is a conversation killer. It’s boring. It’s cumbersome. It forces you to follow a lot of rules which are EXTRAORDINARILY HARD to follow. You’re with your friends on a summer night, having coffee and enjoying the glorious scenery under a warm starry night and you made that awkward mistake of talking about a film or a book about a guy named
Jesus or the Christ and suddenly all fell silent.
Then you heard the crickets chirp.
Then more silence.
And so you just commented on how slow the turtles are or ask them if they like growing cactus or some arrant nonsense just to steer the conversation away from that very awkward topic.
Maybe the Jesus thing is just wrong. Perhaps God and his son and their story are all wonderful but they’re just not relevant in light of Twitter and Facebook and all the fun things in our midst. Well actually, let’s not make them that irrelevant. Hey, after all, we need some sort of a magical genie we can call upon when we have problems in our exams, or work or finances. Of course we need the power Jesus when we have problems.
Either that, or our idea of Christianity is religiously going to church everyday, praying each and every second and pointing out all the sins of our neighbors and not becoming like them because they are not worthy of the kingdom of God.
Sometimes I think that the very reason we are not comfortable talking about God is because we think we are not worthy. That we just cannot follow his rules because they’re too much for our human nature. We think that God only talks to the righteous or to the “holy” ones.
And so we stop there.
We just conclude that this Jesus guy is there, yes. He is real, but we’re not just HOLY enough for him. So we pray occasionally and thank him once in a while. Then we try to enclose him in a box, hide him somewhere in the deep corners of our thoughts and well, conveniently unbox him during his birthday or some life crisis when any form of help is welcome.
In the Bible, there was a story about a man named Simon and how he met Jesus for the first time. He and his fishermen friends had been working all night trying to catch fish but they haven’t caught even one. Then Jesus told them to lay down their nets. I can only imagine Simon thinking this is a ridiculous idea since they have been casting their nets all night. Nonetheless, he did what Jesus told him and and when they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. Amazed by what had just transpired, Simon fell at Jesus’ knees and said “Go away from me Lord, I am a sinful man!”
So did Jesus go away because Simon is a sinner and not worthy of him? No. The bible tells us that Jesus called Simon and his friends to be his first disciples. The first followers of Jesus, the first Christians, as we learn from the story are sinners. Just like us.
When we start understanding Christianity, we realize that our basic assumptions are indeed true. That we are sinners. That we are not worthy. But it doesn’t end there.
The bible, the very book we are afraid to read because of our fear of condemnation, reveals to us God’s grand plan of redemption. It tells the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus for the salvation of all. Far from being irrelevant, it tells the struggles of ordinary people, sinners like us, who were called by God to follow him.
Christianity is not just some religion as we know it today. When we open our minds, we realize that it brings a message of hope and redemption to a fallen race. It is more than going to church to impress people, more than the building, more than praying once in a while. When we finally see beyond our fears, we see our very selves desperately in need of salvation and we see Christianity as the story of beggars telling other beggars where to find bread.