Jesus You and Me
Lets begin by thinking of Jesus and then we can move on to think about You and Me.
At his baptism Jesus heard some beautiful words which were spoken by the Father.
"This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
O that all parental responses were as encouraging!.
I saw recently a poster which contrasted the different kind of affect certain attitudes and behaviour can have on children. Basically what it said was that if you surround a child with encouragement and praise and love, there is a good chance that the child will grow up to be equally encouraging and positive and a nice adult. However if you constantly criticise and tell them how horrible they are, they too will be grow up to be nasty aggressive and horrible. Love transforms, absolute love transforms absolutely.
Jesus knew that he had received the seal of God's approval. It was this acceptance by God which enabled him to be so tolerant and forgiving in his own ministry. It was because Jesus was at ease with himself and confident of God's love that he was so relaxed and accepting of others. You think of the ministry of Jesus and his attitudes towards those around him. People came or were brought to Jesus who you would expect him to be critical of. old scrubbers and scab infected lepers who wouldn't get within 50 feet of a synagogue and Jesus seemed to go out of his way to make them welcome. The woman caught in adultery, people who according to the law were ritually unclean like the woman with a haemorrhage—the equivalent of today's AIDS victims, people who were blind or lame, who were thought to have the curse of God on them.
'Who sinned' they said to Jesus, 'this man or his parents' What was the response of Jesus?. It was · always accepting · always refusing to criticise and condemn · he even thought of clever ways to avoid being publicly critical 'let him who is without sin cast the first stone.' Indeed the only people Jesus condemned seemed to be those who were 'holier than thou,' the Pharisees and the religious authorities. 'Let him who is without sin cast the first stone' In other words, 'get real,' don't think that you are better than somebody else because you are not. Jesus wanted to include people, call them his family and welcome them home. God was like a mad rich fool who lavished all his money on undeserving causes. We are like the water board, we want to meter out and ration God's love, make people deserve it and earn it, be worthy of every drop. We are like a greedy family waiting for Uncle to die resenting anything being spent because there will be less left for us in the will.
The message of Jesus is that God isn't going to die! His love isn't like a Yorkshire Water Authority reservoir in danger of running out at the first sign of a dry spell. We invent doctrines surrounding hell and judgement because that is the kind of people that we are, mean minded, critical and self-righteous. Wanting all the good stuff for ourselves. Look at Jesus, think of the crucifixion scene. Some horrible old Romans are jabbing him with a spear, a bunch of priests are clapping their hands, prime candidates if ever there were any for an eternal life of torment and hell fire. What do they get? Forgiven. Jesus forgives and welcomes even those who kill him. A crucified criminal gets a first class ticket to paradise. It's just not fair. Surely any doctrine of salvation would have to leave room for the fact that Jesus from the cross pronounced forgiveness upon people who were in the act of killing him, how does that tally with your understanding of who is and who is not forgiven?
All of this is made possible because Jesus knows the Father's love. Which brings us to think more closely about You and Me. We say we don't like ….
- so and so because they are of a different political point of view
- we don't like her because she is from another country
- we don't like him because he's a puff
- they are no good because they don't go to church
- and that lot down the road are wasting their time because they are Moslems and God hates them anyway.
'What on earth do you think you are doing'
I was asked recently
'allowing the Sikh's to meet in your church'.
'I hope that you have the building insured because the chances are that God will do the same to your church as he did to York Cathedral when that Bishop of Durham Jenkins was consecrated'.
The Jesus who forgives those who push a spear through his side sends a thunder bolt on Durham Cathedral and now he is winding one up for an almighty blast at St. Mark's Bedford, because we show acceptance and tolerance to people with religious views which are different to our own!. Jesus didn't need to attack other people because he knew the security of God's love and therefore he felt at ease with people who we may like to judge and be critical of. Lack of self confidence and self esteem is a problem of huge proportions in our society today. Many people are damaged by their own view of themselves and are prevented from taking advantage of the opportunities available to them. If we suffer from a lack of self worth then we can never achieve the possibilities which are open to us. Significantly and often this expresses itself as a criticism of others.
Psychologists tell us that lack of self esteem has its origins in a person not feeling unconditionally loved. If we never received all the love which we needed as children for example, then we can feel inadequate and unworthy for the rest of our lives. If we suffered from living with an abusive partner, or perhaps just somebody who undermined our efforts, then we can come to believe harsh and cruel things which are said about us. We need to hear those same words ourselves. To know that God looks fondly upon us and cares for us. We need to be reassured that God takes delight in just our being and not just what we do, he loves us even when we make a mess.
Actually the words of Jesus are full of assurance of just that fact. Jesus takes great effort to teach that even sparrows are known individually by God. The life of Jesus was one in which he constantly welcomed and accepted people around him, even when they didn't show any response to him. The very ones that we might have expected Jesus to turn away, the thieves, prostitutes, lepers - these were the ones he went most out of his way to show compassion towards. So we need to hear those words of acceptance by God ourselves. Our self esteem must not depend on the picture other people have of us, but rather the picture which Jesus has of us. God does not pick and choose, he loves all of his children equally, he has made us all different and unique, handbuilt by God to be loved by him. Whenever we feel let down, ashamed, or worthless, may we discover with Jesus the love of God surrounding and upholding us.