I’ve been fascinated by something I read a while ago by Matthew Henry, that highly respected 18th century theologian and clergyman, and I was surprised by his radical views.
Speaking of his contemporaries, three hundred ago, this is what he said; ‘Christ in his spirit, by his word and by his ministers is still no better treated.
By a thousand devices they make religion give way to their worldly interests.’
Perhaps the reason I was so gripped by what he said is that it resonated with two of the most significant watersheds in my life.
The first one was the day it dawned on me that it was religious leaders who demanded the death of Jesus, and the second was when I saw that many of them are still at it.
That’s what Matthew Henry was saying; ‘By his ministers he is still no better treated.’
By any standards that is remarkable, although precisely how they mistreat Jesus is a topic for another day, but it should help us understand what Jesus meant when he said that on judgement day, ‘...many will come to me and say, “Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name, and in your name we cast out demons, and we performed many miracles in your name.”
But I will reply, ‘I never knew you.’
That’s what has been occupying my thoughts for the last couple of weeks; the fact that there are people who prophecy, who cast out demons, who even claim Christ’s authority to perform miracles, to whom he will say, ‘I never knew you.’
A bit mind blowing that isn’t it, I mean who can these men and women be?
Well, you can be pretty sure you won’t find them in the pubs and clubs, for if they’re prophesying, that is uttering divinely inspired revelations, they’re probably preachers.
And if they’re doing convincing stuff like performing miracles and casting out demons, the chances are they are probably seen as influential charismatics.
Could it be that those who have rejected religion have seen through the charade and have toddled off?
Could that be why many who are disenchanted by religion but who have not yet got around to rejecting it are only hanging in there because it’s respectable to be seen in church on a Sunday?
Are the ministers who treat Jesus as badly as ever he was treated really ministers, and if so are they continuing to play their little game because their status in the community demands it?
And if that is the case, why haven’t they been removed from their pulpits?
Does it suit the drowsy masses, whose pious bums warm pews a Sunday morning, to allow the great deception to continue unabated, fearful that a blast of inconvenient truth might have the same effect as a shaft of sunlight on the living dead?
Big questions, but they’re questions that we need to confront if we ever hope to understand what life, religion, spirituality and God are all about?
Wouldn’t be great if we all began to ask ourselves awkward questions?
Adam welcomes comments on his weekly Times’ column. Write to him c/o the Larne Times, 8 Dunluce Street, Larne, BT40 1JG or email him - firstname.lastname@example.org