People are often asked if they could choose anyone – dead or alive – to invite to a dinner party, who would they like. Occasionally people suggest Jesus would be a good choice. I think they underestimate how uncomfortable he’d make them feel. To my mind, he’d be a bit of a nightmare.
I imagine it was the Victorians that turned Jesus into a meek and mild sort of guy. Someone, surrounded by loving lambs, who cares for children and offers healing to the broken and comfort to the rest of us. And in many places, that image of Jesus lives on in their minds and in the church today. But have they been listening closely to the sermon or read their Bible? If Jesus brought comfort, he also brought discomfort – a challenge more often than not to the way we live our lives. When I read about some preachers who are constantly asking for money to buy big houses and fast cars, I wonder if they’re taken Jesus seriously.
Some Christians imagine they are very blessed by Jesus and that entails prosperity as a measure of how blessed they are. But Jesus had no bank account and challenged his followers to give everything up to follow him. He lived hand to mouth, reliant on the generosity of others, sharing everything they had in order to create something close to the Kingdom of God. And there was also the issues of justice and peace to contend with.
If we are truthful, most of us Christians rather like our comforts, our warm homes and expensive holidays. If this year, with COVID 19, has taught us anything, we might see the great challenge of our age: the simple life, love of neighbour and respect for life, all life. It’s a start but Jesus demands yet more from us – love our enemies, give our riches away, walk the path of sacrifice and cost.
A friend of mine posted a quote on line this week: “We are spiritual contributors not spiritual consumers. The Church does not exist for us. We are the Church and we exist for the world.” What a challenge!
Jesus is a guest who not only turns our lives upside down, but demands we think less of ourselves and more of others. A nightmare guest, indeed!