Got a bloody nose today from Bible In One Year. It happens occasionally.
You keep your guard up carefully during the Old Testament reading – you’ve got your defences and justifications to hand. Nicky’s commentary coaxes you through as pleasantly as possible. You stay mildly guarded through the Psalm, perhaps allowing even the odd bit of guilty pleasure in the vengeance bits – (Yeah! Break some teeth God! The evil dogs!!!) Then you wade into the New Testament portion nice and relaxed… until Jesus goes and says something like,
“Stop sinning, or something worse might happen to you.”
Perhaps I swim in the wrong circles, but no one I know speaks like this. Many voices would say to me – this is specifically how you don’t speak to people if you want to reflect the love of Christ to them. Yet here it is, your Captain speaking, plain as day.
No preamble. No easy does it. No lengthy conversation drawing out the guy’s unique life history. No earning the right to speak through building relationship. No explicit display of empathy. Just a blunt and fairly insulting directive.
You sin. Not, you’ve fallen short like the rest of us. No talk of failure, or fragility, or the undoubtedly true fact that he had also be wronged through his life and was in some sense a victim as well as a sinner. Just within the command the implicit truth – you commit evil acts.
You have the responsibility to change. You need to choose a different course. Immediately. You don’t need a programme, or an accountability partner, or a pastor to hold your hand. The ball is in your court and you should change from today.
If you don’t change, terrible things may happen to you. A threat. Not a hint of – I’ll always leave my door open to you. Or a ‘hey, take this opportunity to live your best life now’. Just a terrifying promise – if you don’t change your ways it will go badly for you.
If this was the assessed example, Jesus would surely fail the Pastoral Conversations Module 101 miserably, wouldn’t he?
This sort of talk normally leaves picking licking their wounds rather than feeling like a million dollars. Yet, this was the most loving thing possible to be said to that guy at that moment in time. We know, because Love himself spoke those words.
No one wants to be the street yeller, throwing judgement on their pet-hate minority group. It doesn’t look a thing like Jesus, and it doesn’t even talk like a gentleman.
Yet, if our weird 2016 sensibilities are never ruffled. If we never talk about our corruption, or the call to change, or the consequences of not doing so… is it really the Christ we’ve been captured by?