I’ve just finished reading Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. I know it’s taken me a while to get round to this but I’m kind of glad I waited because I think I’m probably in a place now where it makes more sense to me that it might have when it came out a couple of years ago.
The book is full of gems. For me, Bell’s engagement with the Jewish Jesus is illuminating and helpful but the line that struck me most was:
If it’s not good news for everybody then it’s not good news for anybody.
His explanation is that if person X starts to follow Christ that should be good news for the Muslim next door or the Hindu across the road because person x will be a better neighbour.
I’ve asked the question ‘What difference does it make to the world that we follow Christ?’ in a few sermons over the past months. I think Rob Bell’s observation gives at least a place to start looking for an answer. The Good News isn’t just Good News for us. It should be Good News for the people we live with, the people we work with, the people we share our street with, the people we meet and all the people we come into contact with.
There is no way Jesus intended to start a church. Nothing he did was designed to grow a great institution that has fought over how many angels you can get on a pin head, the colour of cups in the cupboards and who should be allowed to use them, should the minister raise three fingers representing the Trinity during the benediction, should we stand for the bible, what should be the balance of hymns between traditional and contemporary etc, etc, etc. You can add to the list as you feel the need.
All Jesus did was tell folk there are forgotten folk in the world and there ought not to be, there are people who starve and there shouldn’t be, there are folk imprisoned in memories and pain and guilt and marriages and illness who should rather be free to life fully, there are people who can’t afford clothes for their own backs let alone their children’s backs and that is a shocking thing to let happen. Sort it.
The principle is dead straight forward. This is quite simply all there is to do as a church, a nation, a company of people, an individual. Here, and rarely anywhere else will you find Jesus. He never said he’d be found among those who wanted pews or those who didn’t, those who wanted everything sung with the organ or the piano, those who wanted Moody and Sankey or those who wanted John Bell.
But he did say, if you want to find me, look among the poor.
Which bit did the church fail to understand?
My answer? All of it.
We, the church, the supposed people of God, the followers of Christ, have forgotten that the Good News should be Good News for everyone. If it’s not Good News for everyone then it’s not the Good News Jesus was talking about.