Thursday, September 29, 2011

What good news?

We've started looking at the gospel of Mark in the tribal gathering at Zac's on Tuesday evenings. I missed the first one (had to go hospital visiting for some reason) but was there this week. We take our time going through the study so we'd reached chapter 1, verse 14, where Mark talks about the calling of the first disciples. Sean suggested that Mark's would be the equivalent of the tabloid version of the gospel; he tells short snappy stories and doesn't mess around with analysis.

The thing that struck me most about this reading was in the first verse, which said that Jesus went into Galilee 'proclaiming the good news of God'.

Good news can be a hackneyed or clich├ęd phrase in Christian circles. It's one that we standardly use but I don't think the sense of it had really struck me before. The good news of God. That was Jesus' mission on earth: to proclaim the good news of God. Not to threaten or terrify with tales of a angry unforgiving god but to demonstrate the loving forgiveness of God.

But if the news is so good why is it that the message is roundly scorned by millions? Why are the messengers mocked, abused and still today tortured and killed? (Actually I think the reason for state persecution is rather different from the reasons why your average Christian in Britain is avoided or laughed at by the man in the street.) Why does the mention of Christianity stir up strong emotions, sarcastic argument and even downright rudeness?

Sadly, I fear it's because of the messengers.

My first thoughts on Tuesday evening were that it's because of the ones in power who misuse that power or who give out the wrong message, sometimes in what they preach, more often in how they live. Too many church leaders don't demonstrate Jesus; but then again, too many Christians don't. It's not just the fault of the ones who appear in the media when they screw up big time; it's the responsibility of all of us who claim to be followers of Jesus to live up to what we proclaim, to demonstrate the good news of God.

Later in that paragraph in Mark's gospel Jesus tells the first disciples to 'follow me'. Not believe in me or pray to me or use my name as an excuse, but follow me. In other words, copy me, do what you will see me do. Which was, take the side of the underdog, defend the poor, feed the hungry, love the unlovely, and stand up to hypocrisy. (The only time Jesus used harsh words was to the hypocrites.)

But it's flipping hard. We're human and imperfect. There are so many times I've wished I hadn't done something or hadn't said something, or I've regretted not saying or doing what I knew I could have, should have. I hesitated about writing 'should have' then as God isn't about shoulds or shouldn'ts. He knows my weaknesses better than I do myself - and I think I'm pretty honest with myself - and hopes for our best but forgives our less-than.

So I suppose what I took from the study was not something new but a different perspective on it. I'll continue to try - and often fail - but I don't want to be someone's excuse for not even looking at Jesus.

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