Jesus said that we must become like little children if we are to enter the Kingdom of God. I went on a church camp last weekend and I was given this lesson a number of times by the little children who were there. Their sense of play and trust and sheer joy at what we ‘grown-ups’ call the simple things, was something to behold. As we were leaving, one little 4 year old girl looked around at us and said in all seriousness, “Drive safely”. It was beautiful.
Sometimes we just need to hear the simple things. Amidst all our talk about how faith relates to culture and how Jesus is relevant to a postmodern society, sometimes we just need to hear the words, “God loves you”. The great Swiss theologian, Karl Barth, when once asked what the greatest observation he had made over his career was, simply quoted the words of the old children’s hymn, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so”. Sometimes that’s all we need to hear. And sometimes all we need is someone to be there and listen and empathise when the going gets tough for us, and then suddenly life becomes a little bit easier to deal with again. I thank God for the friends in my life, the ones who care, the ones who will call just to ask how I’m going.
In a dog-eat-dog world where we’re constantly given the message that what goes around comes around – the message of karma – Jesus offers a different way. He offers the way of grace, where we get what we don’t deserve and we don’t get what we do deserve. Among Jesus’ first words to the woman caught in adultery were “neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11); and when Peter was struck by the compassion and grace of Jesus after their amazing catch of fish, all he could think of was how this man could be so gracious to him who saw himself as such a sinner (Luke 5:1-11). But Jesus said ‘no, now you are going to catch people’.
We don’t need to get all our problems sorted out before we follow Jesus. He calls us to come on the journey just where we are. At what is commonly called the Great Commission, it says that some of them worshiped him but others doubted (Matthew 28:17). But he didn’t say to those who doubted, ‘sorry, go and get your life sorted out and then you will be qualified to go to all nations and make disciples’. No, he sent them all out anyway.
The good news of the Gospel is that you are loved. The Gospel is all about Jesus. He is the sunshine in the darkness. The more we walk with Jesus on the journey and receive his love for us, the more we find ourselves able to deal with the vagaries that life throws at us. We become more resilient and able to deal with life on life’s terms, rather than quietly demand that life treat us on our terms.
God teaches us to get up again when we fall. We are not condemned to stay down in the mud wallowing in our own self-pity. This is what repentance is all about. God’s call to repent is not a fear-based ‘change or else!’ demand that is placed upon us. It is a quiet wooing, much as a lover woos the beloved. It is a beckoning to come to where the grass is greener, to “come and see”, as the Lord told two disciples (John 1:39). Australian Christian teacher Fuzz Kitto, says that this is a ‘repenting to’ rather than a ‘repenting from’. It is seeing something better in Jesus than what we have been doing with our lives.
Jesus came for the lost, sick, world-weary people like you and me. ‘Just as I am’ – as the old hymn puts it – is the way we are to come to him. Just as I am, in all my doubt, all my shame, all my pain, and all my sense of unworthiness. We are not shoved out of the way; we are instead embraced, and though like Peter before us, we will probably at first be unable to cope with such love, yet he bids us come and follow and find the life that you have always been searching for.