- This is a challenging and difficult message, but we must note how the world sees us in order for us to be able to minister effectively.
- We should acknowledge that some of the things which the “new atheists” say about us are 100% correct!
- Luke 10:25-37 – An expert in the law asks Jesus what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus’ answer is a relational answer about love for God and for others.
- The lawyer’s next question is “who is my neighbour?” One of the key accusations levelled against the church by the “new atheists” is that Christianity makes life convenient for us
- Professor John Gray, the author of “Straw Dogs” argues that there is nothing special about being human, and attacks humanism as being simply Christian morality dressed up in secular language, ignoring scientific reality. According to his argument, all human morality is a matter of convenience, something which people follow when things are going well, but discard in tough times, when we revert to acting in our own interests.
- Jesus replies to the lawyer’s second question “who is my neighbour?” with the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus’ first audience probably wouldn’t have been surprised that the priest walked past on the other side. The priest was not only in danger, but in a moral dilemma.
- The story continues with the appearance of a Levite, one who served the priests.
- Audiences in Jesus’ time would have expected a story about a priest and a Levite to be followed by the appearance of a member of the congregation of Israel, who served the Levites, however, Jesus departs from this formula by introducing a despised Samaritan as the rescuer of the wounded man.
- It was manifestly not convenient or safe for the Samaritan to help the wounded man, but he did so.
- When Jesus ends the story the audience must have realised that the Samaritan may have had literally to lay down his life for his neighbour.
- Jesus therefore changes the question, from “who is my neighbour?” to “who is neighbourly?” We are called to “go and do likewise” and love everybody, whatever the cost to ourselves.
- This moral choice is particular problematic for those, who, like us, live in an affluent part of the world. It has been found by sociological research that affluence often leads to a lack of a sense of meaning to life. If our Christianity is too convenient, we should not be surprised if the world is not impressed.
- Is your Christian faith simply a matter of convenience?
- In struggling with addictive behaviours (such as internet pornography) have you so accommodated God into your way of living, that you barely feel guilt anymore?
Responses to questions:
(In response to a question about whether we should treat people differently on the basis of their behaviour) – We are sometimes worried that the redemption of those who have done terrible things means that justice has sometimes failed, and misses the point of forgiveness. Forgiveness is not about making us feel good about ourselves (as though God were some sort of “forgiveness ATM”) but about restoring our relationship with him.
(In response to a question about how best to speak to others about Jesus in a non-threatening way) – We should have such compassion for people that we do not need to preface our comments to them with words such as “I need to speak the truth to you in love” (which is often neither loving nor truthful). A good approach is to put yourself in a position where you have no power over the other, and everything to lose if you speak inappropriately, and then seek God’s wisdom!