They stand up to give a hearty applause.
Here in Britain, we are approaching the end of the Autumn Conference season. By that I am referring to that time of year where the major political parties have their gatherings.
There was first the Liberal Democrats, then last week there was Labour and this week it’s the Conservative. For an aspect of my life that I have found fascinating for years, it’s surprising how little I have blogged about politics.
And this isn’t going to be one of them.
I mention the conference season, because I have had the chance to watch the leader speeches. Watching them is sad and amusing. It’s amusing seeing just how often the attendees will applaud what’s been said. In one of them, I am fairly certain that the audience applauded to stay awake. But, not that I condone the activity at all, should I have engaged in a drinking contest to take a sip of a mild alcoholic beverage every time audiences applauded, I am fairly certain I would be in hospital right now having gone way beyond alcohol poisoning to having my blood taste of that mild alcoholic beverage. Look, I am all for encouragement and support, but applauding everything??
It’s also there that I came across some sadness. I get it, as I have got it from political conferences for years, this gathering is about cheering each other and backslapping or at least passing it off to do our best to look alright if things aren’t going well. I get it. But it is still sad to watch pandering and petty shots called against opponents and offering little in the way of … #NevaMind
It got me thinking, though, about the leader I endeavour to follow. I would like to think that I applaud Jesus for everything He stands for and speaks about. What I find reassuring about him, though, and it was prevalent in his earthly ministry, he wasn’t pandering to anyone. Even at the height of his apparent popularity with the people, it was nothing for him to turn around and say something that even his closest followers would struggle with. He loved people, he served people, he rescued people and he did it sharing a message that at the same time gave them hope and challenged and baffled them.
Consider it – you could be forgiven and healed, now you must go about forgiving and healing even your enemies! Hope and a challenge.
Consider it – you could be supernaturally fed with good bread and fish and to really live you need to eat of the real bread from heaven and he means it.
Consider it – you could experience the blessing of being accepted by the father and so it shouldn’t be a problem giving up everything you hold dear, take up your cross and follow him.
Those are not the catchphrases or policies that would win votes and longstanding ovations. In fact those challenges to the status quo and to our comfortable way of living lead him to be set up by his own and rejected to the point of the cross.
Even now, however much there has been an effort to sanitise his words and make them culturally acceptable, generations of disciples still are stirred to read the words of the Messiah and see again that he wasn’t promoting the American Dream. To see he wasn’t advancing capitalism and consumerism. To see he wasn’t clamouring for a socialist model of government. To hear he wasn’t pursuing a liberal democratic ideal. To witness again that the invitation to the Kingdom of God is a challenging way of existence that can only come about by yielding to his rule, submitting to his way and embracing his life as your new life by his Spirit.
Honestly I struggle to applaud everything Jesus says. I struggle because it’s hard. I struggle because it does go against a lot that I took as normal – and I was brought up in a Christian home. The reality remains for me though that following Jesus highlights just how entrenched I was in the rule of someone other than him. Just how much his rule changes my life if I submit to him.
The good thing about following him, though, is that he doesn’t ask for applause. He looks for us to relate, for us to grow in knowing and loving each other and for us to grow fully aware that I won’t get it all the time. Things won’t click into place all the time and there are some things I will struggle with. Yet there is the grace of God available to grow and in time to reach the place where there is proper heartfelt applause for all he says and all he does.
In the meantime, I certainly heartily applaud his kingdom coming and his will being done on earth as it is in heaven. I heartily applaud his promised presence with us in all issues of life. I heartily applaud him as my brother, as my Saviour, as my friend and as my Lord.
That’s something I can heartily applaud.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden