The Gospel of Jesus Christ is…
We are more sinful and weak than we ever dared to admit and…
We are more loved and accepted than we ever dared to hope.
(Tim Keller with thanks to J Spadino)
So there we all were, a group of Christian men, aged from early twenties to late forties, on a gorgeous summer day in London attending a theological conference. It was the lunch break, and we we're heading down the main road towards a sandwich bar, passionately discussing the content of the morning papers, when the mood changed.
Walking towards us in a short dress which fitted in all the right places, was a totally stunning blonde. In a moment, the conversation had virtually stopped, as our attention was clearly taken elsewhere... for a few seconds.... then we all smiled at each other, and carried on.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not giving this example to lecture on looking at women (actually, when things were good in the garden, we were certainly meant to look), but to touch on what we looked at last time - how when Adam and Eve took their eyes off of how things were meant to be and then neglected this due to a 'promise' of something else, the whole world spun out of control.
It's a reality that is often pretty well dismissed as incorrect today - we're not the way we are because of a some story about naked forebears stealing fruit from a tree! We're just, well, naturally selfish - it's just part of what makes our species good survivors.
The whole point of the Genesis record, however, is to say we didn't survive.
We were alienated totally from our true humanity, our true connection to life, creation and each other. Everything became tainted with death because of that one catastrophe, which then lead to countless others (just read through from Genesis 3 to 11 to get the big picture).
The point here is that rebellion has made everything rotten to the core, and there's no known remedy for that. You can seek inner peace, work down to your bones doing good deeds, be as pious as please, but it won't change what's true at the heart of us. As Bob Dylan once phrased it so well, "I was stone cold dead when I stepped out of the womb".
We have to start there. We have to start there, because only then, when we see just how far away we are from what is meant, when we understand how far we have fallen, can we really have our eyes open to the answer.
When you're in a hole that deep, then you understand that the only way out is rescue - someone has to come to your aid, and that is what the message of Jesus Christ is all about.
We're pretty good at distracting ourselves, often for all sorts of 'good reasons', but God wants us to look squarely and deeply into this reality, so we go running to him for mercy - for rescue.
Look hard there, and then turn and look at the person of Jesus Christ.
He came that we might know life again, and know it in all of it's beauty.