Sounding Spiritual: Because We're Worth It

(See entry for Sunday 4.8.19.)

And that’s a pretty picture, too, isn’t it?

My recent attendance at a Church of England service reminded me that there are still many people who say that they believe in God - or rather, a god: the he, she or it mentioned that morning, and on countless occasions elsewhere, seems to have little in common with the God of the bible, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. 

Indeed, I keep meeting people who believe in the god who is a great big teddy bear - group hugs! - and think that heaven is for everyone except the worst of the worst, and even they - perhaps - will join us one day, when they have seen the error of their ways in another existence, and done enough good deeds to make up for all their ‘mistakes’. As for an actual hell: oh, come now, we’re not living in the Middle Ages, are we?

If the subject of man’s sinful nature is addressed, or the deadly seriousness of sinful actions is suggested, it isn’t long before these folk will raise a hand to rebuke you: “Ah, but don’t forget, we are all made in the image of God, are we not? And that means that we are all God’s children, are we not?” A shake of the head and a sweetly sceptical smile are then employed against any argument to the contrary.

"... all made in the image of God”? Yes, it does sound quite spiritual - after a fashion, if you forget about the Fall.

You haven’t heard such things said? You don’t get out enough.

I was going to write that this attitude, this unnervingly irrational belief in our intrinsic worth, has seeped slowly into the greater part of the ‘contemporary Christian church’, and into many churches that call themselves evangelical; but it would be more accurate to say that it has come in on the flood. We say with our mouths that we are sinners, saved by grace, but we often harbour in our secret hearts the belief that God must have seen something rather wonderful in us, something that made us worth saving. 

And hell? “Yes, well, the bible says that there is such a place, so I suppose it must be so… Then again, we don’t really know what all that symbolic language actually means, do we? And the bible says that death is a sleep, doesn’t it? Perhaps hell is something like that, so let’s not go round telling other people all about something of which we know so little ...”

Saved because we were worth it? 

I doubt it. 

Here are a few glimpses into the real nature of the human heart. 

Job 15.16: “the heavens are not pure in His sight; how much less one who is abominable and corrupt, a man who drinks injustice like water!”

Ecclesiastes 9.3: “the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.”

Jeremiah 17.9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” 

John 3.19: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

That’s not such a pretty picture, is it?

To be continued.