Have you ever felt disillusioned by Christianity? You go through life carrying a truckload of guilt and shame, then you go to church and find another truckload dumped on you.
It’s enough to make you want to jack the whole thing in... perhaps why so many have.
If that’s you, suggests Steve Chalke in his book The Lost Message of Jesus, then he claims to have found a way to move onto the scene like a bulldozer, tip over the garbage truck and clear away the muck.
Here’s what Chalke claims to be the lost message: Jesus says: ‘The Kingdom, the ‘shalom of God’, is available to everyone through me.’
Now I guess that most of us are familiar with that, except that he is arguing that we don’t really believe it’s as simple as that. Religion through the centuries, he believes, has created roadblocks of conditions that should not be there – and I think he’s right.
However, Chalke goes further, maybe too far. Judge for yourself.
Take for example the notion of ‘original sin’, a teaching that I grew up with: you’re a sinner, born into sin, rotten from the outset, a loser from day one, judged by God, guilty as charged and damned to Hell. Chalke sees it differently. He says: ‘No, you’re a human being, created in God’s image, it’s not original sin we should be focusing on, it’s original goodness.’
And I have to say, it’s hard not to go along with him on that one.
The lost message is that Jesus was comfortable mixing with social outcasts to make this point: all God wants is to welcome you home like the father in the story of the prodigal son. I can live with that one too, for wasn’t it the old prophet Micah who asked the question: ‘What does God require of you?’
O how I wish that the squeaky clean pastors and teachers of these dark days would tell their people the simple, liberating answer that Micah followed his question with: ‘To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.’
So what is the true Easter story all about then? It’s nothing short of the fulfilment of Jesus’s prophecy about himself, ‘...God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world.’
Maybe we should ask why so many of our religious leaders studiously avoid preaching the gospel of grace and peace, for when you read what Jesus said about them it’s clear he was angry, and disappointed. Interesting that if I were to call them names like, ‘brood of snakes, generation of vipers’, the editor of this fine publication might have something to say about my choice of descriptive words. Would he be right? Who am I to say, but that’s exactly what Jesus called them, and worse – read for yourself in Matthew 23.
Yes, the Easter story is that Jesus came to save to world, it’s a story of hope, of love and of life-transforming power, but the big back story, the word that really needs to get out, is that he didn’t fail in his quest!
That’s the lost message of Jesus: why won’t we believe it?
Adam welcomes readers’ comments on opinionsexpressed in his column. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org