This is it, possibly. Without wanting to sound dramatic or make you uncomfortable, this could well be it. The last thing you ever read. The last words I’ll ever write. I know this now like never before. And that it’s easy to forget; to take each day, or week, or month, or minute, for granted.
So I will take this opportunity to spell something out to those of you who are reading this not because you know Jesus already but because you’re polite or because you’re curious or bored or you’re waiting for something to download or for the kettle to boil. Not because I really want to but because I need to. In doing so I am breaking my own golden rule, devised long ago, to help me avoid the fallout of plain speaking and the pain of rejection. I had no right to come up with it, of course. The rule? At all costs protect yourself.
I apologise to everyone I know personally who is reading this and who has never heard me start a conversation about God. I am sorry. I have been too vain and too proud to do it. And I’m sorry for the times I’ve shut down a religious conversation because I’m terrified of outing myself. These are not the only reasons of course, though they are the most powerful. The other is that I feared not knowing enough for my words to carry weight, being caught out by a difficult, or more probably in my case, a simple, question which would make my faith unravel. But that was because I thought it all depended on me. And now I know it doesn’t. It depends on God. And on those who listen.
Christians have assumptions about the secular world which are false. Okay, what I really mean is that I have for years hidden behind a false assumption. It’s that people basically know the gospel and actively, consciously reject it. In truth, most people don’t. Don’t know the gospel, I mean. What many know is what Christians are against. But not what we’re for. What we do believe. So here goes.
God is love. And God loves you. To death. He wants to be in relationship with you. To connect with you at the deepest level, beyond the masks you project, the insecurities you harbour, the barriers you put up. He knows who you really are, and he wants to release you into real freedom. Jesus came to show us who God is, to describe his nature. He did it through a 3-year public ministry, summarised in four eyewitness accounts in the New Testament, known as the gospels, teaching small groups and large crowds, with miracles of healing and other signs of the supernatural. He offered something called eternal life and described himself as the son of God, and in the understanding of the Jewish community he was born into, as God himself. This claim made him a threat to the Jewish leadership, who had him executed. His followers claimed to have seen him alive three days after his death. The life, death and resurrection of a person like this were all prophesied centuries earlier in the Old Testament. The death of Jesus paid the price for the sin of mankind, sin being our rejection of what is good in favour of what isn’t. And it was necessary because our sin cuts us off from God, puts a barrier between us. Jesus is the way back to God. God climbed down into his creation and gave us a hand up out of the mess.
Okay, it won’t win any theology prizes but unless I hit send now it won’t happen. There are countless people who have expressed it better and more fully than that, but that’s not the point. Don’t be put off by sock-and-sandal-wearers, or by slick performance preachers, or even by me, wherever I fall in that spectrum but please take this opportunity to think about what you’ve just read. Find out what on earth I’m talking about. At worst, if I’m wrong, I will die falsely believing I’m loved and that my life has purpose. I will have lived a hopeful life with my imaginary friend Jesus, who will have made me more loving, more willing to take risks, to be compassionate, to pass on what I believe I’ve been given. If I’m right, though…