Down to earth!

Paul once described the Christian message as ‘foolishness to the Greeks’, meaning that the Christian message is not based on argument or logic, still less a matter of being clever enough to follow it, like a philosophy or moral system, but a story about a person, about a crucifixion and a resurrection which baffles our normal understanding.

This does not, of course, mean that Christians do not need to think! We do not take what some preachers or writers say on trust as a matter of ‘simple faith’ if they are talking nonsense – and nonsense is still nonsense even if it is talked about God! But ultimately our belief is not a matter of reason, of working through from a proposition to a conclusion, weighing the evidence, checking the paperwork, listening to witnesses. Rather we affirm what can never be proved by a scientific method, that once in history one person, Jesus of Nazareth, was the definitive gift of God’s own self into the world, so that what he said and what he did can be claimed to be what God said and did among us back then.

I have been able to visit the (so-called) Holy Land several times and always felt an undoubted thrill at realising this path or this landscape or this lake was what Jesus experienced too. Christianity is not fantasy fiction; this ‘down-to-earthness’ is shared with Judaism and Islam, of course, even though all three faiths have been interpreted and embroidered, more or less helpfully, by their followers through the centuries.

Walking those Palestinian roads one does feel, even faintly, a continuity – and the challenge that comes with it. So, though it is much abused, the question ‘what would Jesus do?’ is a useful one; while it must not lead us to the gratification of sanctifying our own preferences as God’s will(!), the question does carry a down-to-earth reminder that our faith is to be lived out inside history, with real relationships, in everyday situations, just as the Gospel records show Jesus doing.

Ask yourself that question sometimes – and be prepared to be surprised at the answer that emerges!
Peter Brain