The Church of England published its report, Talking Jesus, last week. It finds that, rather than interesting others in Jesus, Christians only put them off when they talk about him. What a dilemma! To evangelise or not when all it achieves is the opposite of what’s intended. Christians must feel their hands are tied.
Not that this will stop them doing it, more’s the pity. But why? What drives some Christians to talk about their beliefs at every opportunity? What makes them think others haven’t heard of Jesus already? Do they honestly think that in England and other places where the Anglican church holds sway, people have never heard of him? Let’s have that show of hands: if this is the first time you’ve heard about Jesus, raise you hand. Or admit to being a Jesus-virgin in the comments.
That’ll be no-one then.
Please – we know about Jesus! And, what’s more, most of us would be happy if we didn’t. While some feel duty-bound to treat him with respect (God knows why when they don’t do the same for Father Christmas or Julius Caesar) most recognise him for the myth he is and trust their instinct not to get involved.
Here in the West it’s almost impossible to escape him, especially as Christmas approaches. Church leaders, with free access to the media, burble on about him, Christian web-sites number in the hundreds of thousands, and songs about his miraculous, fabricated birth will soon be everywhere. At any time of year, armies of street preachers invade our town centres, shouting about how we all need him, while Jehovah’s Witnesses hawk their version at a front door near you. And if we’re really unlucky, a friend or colleague will feel it their duty to tell us all about him at work or school or in the pub.
But, Christians, this isn’t how you’re meant to ‘make disciples of all the world’. The Jesus of the gospels (though that should be ‘Jesuses‘, plural) tells his followers how it should be done. Not by ambushing others to tell them how much they need him but by letting your lights shine (Matthew 5.16). Your ‘good deeds’ and sacrificial love are what should mark you out and impress others; Jesus says so himself. Actions, not words, are how to demonstrate your faith in him, if that’s what you feel you must do.
But they don’t, and that’s why we’re not interested when you’re subjecting us to your fantasy and dogma. If you lived the life – the really radical life Jesus advocated – forsaking wealth, spending yourself on others, going the extra mile, turning the other cheek, giving and forgiving, loving everyone sacrificially – then we might just be persuaded there’s something to this Jesus cult after all (then again we might not). As it is, talking the talk without walking the walk, is – how does the Bible put it? – just the empty noise of clanging cymbals.