CHRISTIAN COMMENT: Jesus at the centre

The problem with writing just once a week is that there’s so much going on around us that the main problem is deciding on the key Issue.

Having said (OK, Mr Picky ‘written’) that, I need to put my hand up and say (write!)that I believe God directs us into what He wants us to do – if we ask Him. So most of the time I have a fairly clear idea of what I should focus on. Whether I do a good job is quite a different matter.

This week? Difficult to choose.

God’s off duty then? Hardly. Maybe I’m not listening or He’s saying ‘Just get on with it. What people get from reading your stuff is up to Me anyway so just get typing....’

Three things then. One, women bishops. Two, Lord MacAlpine’s reference to ‘something wrong with this country.’ And three, Christmas coming early.

Reverse the order. I remember when I was young that Christmas started later. I’m thinking about 50 years back. There was a definite acceleration in the last week or so (present buying), then the big event, then a couple of days of walking slowly and visiting relatives, then a week or so of parties and Christmas celebrations, then New Year, then the sales. That was it.

You don’t need me to tell you that ain’t the case now. Why the change (and I’m rather assuming that you too think this a change for the worse)? The answer to that makes a response to Lord MacAlpine’s comment, too:

The main thing that’s gone wrong with this country is that we’ve left Jesus out of our lives.

‘Just a minute. That’s just bigging up the church.’

Not at all. The church really hasn’t helped people’s view of Jesus Christ. A lot of preaching and not a lot of practice over the past decades (centuries?). There are examples of good churches, more now than ever, I suspect, but too many have made it hard for people to hear what Jesus is saying.

As a result, even though Jesus said ‘I’m the way to do life’, too many miss out and try to do life themselves. According to their own lights. They become, in the words of sociologists, ‘self-referential’. That means that if it seems right to the individual, then it’s right. So post-modern.

And so misguided. How can your feelings be a guide to how to live? If mine are anything to go by, they can be driven all over the place by how much cheese I’ve eaten, whether I’ve got money in the bank or how England are doing at various sports. [Substitute your own ‘drivers’].

We need much more reliable guides to thinking and behaving. Someone – Jesus – whom even his enemies could find no fault with must be a good model, whether or not we go along with everything else that he claimed.

Putting Jesus at the centre of Christmas means we have a focus other than buying and binging. Putting him at the centre of the way we treat other people means we’re slower to point the finger, slower to puff our own righteousness.

And women bishops? Putting Jesus at the centre should mean more humility, more listening, more submission to God and His Word, more shaping the church as he described it, more love, more forgiveness.

If men get that right, women end up in their rightful place.

Truly.

By Nigel O’Dwyer, who leads Goring New Life Church, and lives and works in Worthing.