New Creation (an apology)
Sometimes, a church sermon really blindsides you.
Earlier in the week, I was feeling very angry, and the object of my anger was Giles Fraser. He had written this piece for The Guardian about his distaste for evangelicals; they make smug references to “Cheesus” (their buddy Christ), offer insincere friendship and empty prayers.
His piece really made me think. Specifically, it made me think: Screw you, Giles.
Screw you Giles, with your “man of the people” shaved head and your trendy professed dislike of the dog collar. Screw you and your perception that Justin Welby might sometimes “lapse into Cheesus-speak”, presumably by virtue of the fact that he may occasionally feel our saviour has some bearing on everyday situations. In fact, screw you and your prejudiced assumptions about the type of Christian he is based on the church he came from. Screw you and your achingly BBC-friendly brand, in which Guardian readers are the new disciples and anyone with an unfashionable view is a pharisee. Screw you and your “controversial” appeal despite the fact that you generally espouse the current liberal, mainstream media-endorsed opinion on religious matters. And particularly, screw you for pouring scorn on fellow Christians who are, to the best of your knowledge, trying as they can to follow their Teacher's path in what can be a confusing and hostile environment. Rather than build them up or gently try to correct them, you align yourself with the cynics, point and laugh.
That was still buzzing around my head this evening, when I heard a simple, beautiful message from 2 Corinthians. Paul writes,
“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died… From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”
Paul had to be literally blinded and have the scales removed from his eyes before he realised this; here he implores the early church not to make the same mistake. Judging the outward appearance, refusing to see the new creation. Paul despised the weakness and failure he saw on the cross, but came to see that same man through the eyes of God, and everything changed.
Tonight we were challenged; who do we think too much of? Do we hold famous theologians like Barth or Bonhoeffer too highly in esteem? Are we intimidated by big name atheists? But also, who are we embarrassed by? Is it Pentecostals and all their crazy “hallelujahs”? Is it annoying young Christians, or grumpy old Christians? Or is it… Liberal Christians? Oh dear. If it wasn't clear enough for me, our vicar wandered over to me at the end of the service and raised this very issue; clearly I wasn't going to be allowed to leave church without the message hitting home.
So, Giles Fraser, I'm sorry. I failed to see you as a new creation this week, and was quick to judge you by the world's standards. I still disagree with your article, and I hope you can choose to see your fellow Christians in the light of Christ who “gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” Believe it or not, we're doing our best – I believe you are too.