I wonder if, like me, you sometimes point people to safe religion. A system of morality, with a domesticated, pocket-sized Christ at its head. It’s not necessarily intentional and it can be for what seem like good reasons. But as Bonhoeffer observed, cheap grace is no grace. A little god is no God at all.
What are some of the processes behind this? Well, I can see myself as the Lord’s one-woman press office. He needs me you see, to protect Him from bad publicity. In an earlier post I wrote about how we can make demands of the Lord that He won’t necessarily fulfil – for example in the field of miraculous healings. It is wrong (and pastorally devastating), to expect the Lord to act in ways that we prescribe…but the opposite is just as dangerous. So if a friend of mine is ill or in trouble, rather than praying boldly for the Lord to act, I can avoid the whole issue altogether or make vague requests, along the lines of ‘Lord, help the suffering’. After all, if I do pray for healing and the Lord doesn’t work a miracle, then what does this say about Him? That He is weak? Powerless? Uncaring? No, no, much safer not to ask at all, than to wrestle with the big questions of suffering and faith. It is painful to keep praying, especially when it’s about issues that are close to our hearts. Too often the easiest way out is to just stop bothering. Or to make small requests of a small god.
Perhaps in domesticating Jesus, I plead the best interests of my friends. I don’t want to change Him, just make Him more .. palatable. On this reckoning, Christianity is a way of finding happiness or helping us through bad times. But at the end of the day that’s an offer of gifts rather than the Giver. It’s the suggestion that Christ can be fitted into a convenient slot, like a Tesco home delivery.
The slain lamb is also the Lion of Judah, not a house-cat. He won’t be relegated to Sundays or special occasions. Nor will He be limited, diluted or circumscribed. To do so is to stick a plaster over a gaping wound. It’s to offer a different gospel, which is no gospel at all. The good news is this – that Jesus wants in on all of us – not just the acceptable bits. Only He can rescue us from what our sins deserve. He is Lord of every inch of creation and because of this He offers real hope and real grace. If He is anything less, then He’s not big enough to handle our hearts, our mess and our sin. And He’s just one of many worldly alternatives, like a course of divine acupuncture.