One of my biggest challenges as a School Chaplain has been trying to be inclusive of all students, regardless of their faith background, and, yet, still standing firm in my own faith in Christ. When talking to someone the other day about this challenge I discussed with them how I did not want to be a ‘bible basher’ or a priest who ‘shoved Christianity down someone’s throat’, however, I do want people to know about the deep love of God that exists in the person of Jesus Christ. I want people to know this more than anything else. The problem arises when I become aware that people do not always want to know about God, and then I find myself a little on edge and very unsure about how to share what I know and experience of Christ in a way that is respectful of those who are not interested in religion in any shape or form.
The thing is, is that I completely understand why many individuals do not want to hear someone preaching about a God who has been used as an excuse to treat many people throughout history in horrible ways (e.g., the Crusades). The Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse has also brought to light the extreme hypocrisy of many Christians, particularly Christian leaders. With these things in mind, I find myself ashamed of my Christian heritage and inevitably this leads to a sense of shame in simply being a Christian. What I forget is that I am not ashamed of Christ, just how we as his followers have failed to spread the message of his love.
I know I am not the only person of the Christian faith that carries this shame with them. I believe what has happened as a result of this collective shame is that we become ‘wishy-washy’, for thought of a better word, in how we share the story of Christ with others. We can find ourselves talking around the edges of who Christ is, rather than actually about him. We do this with the best of intentions, thinking that we are making God more acceptable and accessible to the masses, more appealing in some way, but in reality, all we are doing is hiding the very truth of who God is, and trying to protect our own damaged ego. God has expressed to us ‘I am who I am’ in the Scriptures (Exodus 3:14), and Jesus certainly never held back in being who he was when it was clear that people did not like him or what he had to say.
So what can we take from all of the above? Well, something needs to change. Should we revert back to ‘bible bashing’? Certainly not!!! What we need to do is turn to Christ with our shame, and say sorry, and actually receive the forgiveness we know and believe is foundation of our faith. And then we will discover the mysterious presence of God beginning to grow ever so gently within and around us and reminding us that we do indeed have something very worthwhile to share. Something life-changing: The person of Christ. Nothing added. Nothing taken away. We will learn that there are ways of speaking directly about who Jesus is that are neither forceful nor vague, but, rather, are full of truth and grace as it comes out of love for others, not a fear of them rejecting us. This will all take time, and we will still have our ‘wishy-washy’ moments, and, yet, we will grow in the integrity of Christ.
Many of you would know the gospel passage where Jesus sends off his disciples to share the Good News of the Kingdom of God and before they go he says to them, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that place, as a testimony against them (Mark 6:11)”. I think this is an important story to remember as it reminds us that not everyone is going to accept straight away what we have to share about the love of God, and that Jesus does not expect us to convince everyone that God is near. Or even that God exists. That is not our job as Christians. God is quite capable of making His/Her presence known to people, most probably in ways that we are not even aware of. I believe our mission as followers of Christ is to share who we know God to be in Scripture and in our lives, so that others might have an opportunity to recognize that that mysterious loving presence that they experience in their own life is indeed God with them.To Home