Friends, this is the truth I cannot flee. Either Jesus was who he said he was or we have all been led badly astray. We’ve been conned. We’ve been selling snake oil from our pulpits. We’ve been putting people in the ground with false words to soothe families who might have otherwise been putting those Sunday mornings to better use.
If Jesus was not who he said he was, friends, then you and I should get down to the registrar’s office and get our money back. I can teach you all how to tell fairy tales for a lot less than $11,000 a semester. I can sit down with a sick woman and listen to hopes and fears bleed out of her without an MDiv. Although, to be honest, I might just prefer to take up golf or sit under the maple trees with a lemonade and a good book.
Does this make me a bad person? If I carry these burdens each week because Jesus loved me, do I betray the truth that my heart does not bend this way on its own. Do I dare confess that Augustine was right, that children only look so innocent because they are too weak to do evil. Yes. I cannot hide my black heart from you, my friends. It turns out that I am a selfish and self-centered person given half the chance. When we Methodists say “all” people need to be saved, that apparently includes me. If Jesus is a lie put over on us by a bunch of grief-crazed fishermen and tax agents, if my experience of God’s loving and pardoning grace is just a case of self-induced hysteria, if the disciples snatched his body in the night and sat around drinking wine and making up stories about their dead friend, if they laughed when that kid Saul said he had been struck blind on the Damascus road, well, there are some people who owe me an explanation.
I know my pluralist friends will cluck their tongues at this. See, he did not really do it all because he loved people. He is a hypocrite and a fake. To which I can only say, yes. You see me for what I am. Guilty as charged. I am a sinner. (Pssst … you are too.) I am a sinner. But I am saved by grace. For reasons that I cannot comprehend, Jesus died for me. (By the way, he died for you, too. He died for everyone.) If that is not true, then how many lies have I told and called them gospel?