A sermon about the temptation to make Jesus more reasonable, based on Luke 4:21-30 and 1Corinthians 13.
A recent BBC social survey suggests attitudes are getting more liberal, which is not surprising given years of BBC propaganda designed to achieve this end!
However, pressure on the church to conform to the norms of society is not new. Many years ago, the church abandoned it’s opposition to lending money. The Biblical position is that lending money for profit to those in need is exploitation – ‘usury’.
I knew a Christian Bank Manager who complained about irresponsible lending to his superiors – he isn’t a Bank Manager anymore! Now we can look back on the ‘credit crunch’ and we see the devastation caused by irresponsible lending by greedy lenders.
I can’t say with integrity that all lending is wrong (I have a mortgage), but the church is needed to counterbalance natural human greed and restrain its worst effects: we could say that of all sins. Not that the church – you and me – are perfect. We need Christ’s leadership to guide
The Biblical, Unreasonable Jesus
In many parts of the
He insults a foreign woman who comes to him for help; Jesus physically assaults the money lenders in the Temple; he appears to make mistakes, or not to be able to do things in certain circumstances; Jesus suggests that it’s better to mutilate oneself than to burn in hell; and he points out other peoples’ sins – even while forgiving and healing them.
Some Christians ignore inconvenient parts of the Gospel; many scholars (liberal or conservative) try to explain away Jesus’ more difficult words and deeds.
Luke 4 and Corinthians 13
In today’s passage he goes out of his way to provoke and upset people (I wonder, is it to shock them out of their smug complacency? Or am I just making excuses like everyone else?) Jesus deliberately provokes his own kith and kin to the point where they are ready to murder him. Think about that. That’s the Lord we follow – ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild?’
Contrast that with 1Corinthians Chapter 13 on love. We had this at our wedding, but perhaps it isn’t just the mushy, emotional passage that people think it is!
We would like Jesus to be more reasonable. Why does he have to be so difficult? Why can’t he be more middle of the road, middle class – more like us?
Our society currently worships celebrity and wealth. To be a celebrity you have to be popular. To be popular to have to offend as few people as possible, you have to broaden your appeal.
Even if you’re not trying to be famous, you have to be careful what you say, lest you offend anyone. That’s employment law! Voicing an opinion is not the way to get ahead: avoid emotive issues – like uncomfortable facts – if you want to get ahead.
Jesus doesn’t seem to be interested in doing this – why does he have to be so inconvenient?
The Imitation of Christ
We are supposed to imitate Christ, but we try to make him imitate us instead. One of our faults is to try and make Jesus more like us – to make him more reasonable.
At the moment our society is telling us to stop making a fuss. We don’t have the right to tell other people how to live – even if we are just leading by example. “Stop rocking the boat” is the message: but Jesus rocked the boat and we are to imitate him.
I remember being told in art class to “draw what you see, not what you think you see.” I hope that we will read the words and actions of Jesus in the Bible, just as they are. We will need Faith, Hope and Love to truly follow him, and I wish you every blessing on the road.