I’ve been thinking about this after a conversation I had with my mum. We were talking about what it means to be a Christian. I desperately, desperately wanted her to understand. But the more I tried to explain, the deeper I foundered. I knew what I wanted to say. But the words got stuck somewhere between my brain and my mouth.
I wanted to say that it’s all about grace. From start to finish, there’s nothing we can do to earn salvation – it’s all a free gift. Even faith.
But then that left Mum with nothing to do. Which felt a bit wrong. And like I hadn’t done my job properly. So I thought, yeah – we need to receive Him as well, right? And faith, we need to get faith.
But that makes faith sound like some sort of commodity I can pick up at the grocer’s.
And before I know it, my brain starts rattling and nonsense spews forth. The Jesus I love becomes ‘God’ and ‘God’ becomes a list of concepts instead of a person. Instead of holding out a positive life-giving, joy-filled relationship, I’m twittering about what Christianity is Not. Everything is Negative. Christianity is:
not just believing in God
not doing good stuff
not reading the Bible or going to church
not being baptised or giving blood or going to prayer meetings.
Well, nice one Emma – this sounds like an invite to Betty Ford.
But it gets worse.
I panic and retreat. Time to pull out the big guns. Mum, I say. It’s about giving your life to Jesus.
But as the words come out of my mouth I’m thinking: what does this actually MEAN? ‘Giving your life to Jesus?’
Is it a phrase that Christians get, but no-one else?
You see, I know what I mean. But stripped of my theological wrapping paper, I start to unravel. I get complicated up. And my good intentions and so-called training and marriage to an evangelist start splintering in my hands. I forget I love Jesus. I forget that He’s beautiful and brilliant and real. I forget this is my mum and not a lecture hall. I forget that I’ve got the Holy Spirit to make sense of my mutterings.
I guess it feels easier to talk in concepts, than about a living loving relationship. Safer and more objective – like emotions can be neatly side-stepped.
It’s easier to ask people to do stuff and make decisions, than to encourage them to receive. (Five steps to salvation! Starting here..)
It’s easier to talk about ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ than a named and historical Person (especially when He dies in such an undignified way and then comes back).
It’s easier to tailor selected verses than stand upon the whole of the Bible.
It’s easier to say nothing or deliver a staccato speech than to stop and engage. Especially when it’s to someone you love.