I had the pleasure of visiting a school assembly recently, made all the more special because I had one of my children playing a prominent role.
He stood proudly and read from the bible about the occasion that Jesus was baptised and a dove flew down and sat on his shoulder. Unfortunately he got a little tongue tied towards the end of the reading, and actually said that the dove flew down and shat on his soldier.
Is it just me, or is that laugh out loud funny? Apparently not!
I know it wasn’t right, but it did make me giggle. Just a bit, under my breath, but enough to catch the eye of one of the teachers who said very clearly, if not audibly ‘You ought to be ashamed of yourself’. And I was, all of a sudden. I sank back in my chair and thought about what a terrible person I am.
It’s been quite a while since I had that experience of shame and guilt. It reminded me of how I once imagined I would feel if God was real and I had to meet him. I think that many of us may feel the same.
Offended yet? Keep reading.
The myth of self-cleaning
As a young man I heard a rumour that if you only cleaned your hair with water then eventually your hair would begin to clean itself. My experiment lasted over three months, with numerous discussions with work colleagues, who expressed their distaste at the state of my hair. I told them that actually it was quite clean, and before long it would begin to lose its greasy look.
I knew it was offensive, and deep down, I knew that it wasn’t clean. The sad fact I discovered is that your hair cannot clean itself. It’s a myth. Just the same as the myth that we can make ourselves clean before God. This is where things can really get offensive.
An unpopular truth
The apostle Paul knew how to offend people in his day, and he did it deliberately. He talked wherever he could about the cross of Jesus, and people got offended by it, just as they do today.
You see, the cross is God’s way of putting things right in your life. It’s also about your complete inability to get yourself right for God.
That’s not a popular view today. Most of us hope that if there is a God, we can fool him into thinking that we’re OK really.
In the meantime, we go on searching for that certain something that will help us feel more acceptable. We dive into food or relationships, go all out in a hobby, get religious or simply escape with the TV.
Sorry to burst your bubble. Offensive as it is to you, the truth is that you’re not acceptable - just like the state of my hair. You can’t clean yourself and you can’t rid yourself of your shame and guilt.
Your only hope is the cross of Jesus.
By Colin Nichols, who lives in Worthing with his family and leads Jubilee Community Church.