Believing The Hard Things

Christians celebrate Jesus’ birth today, and the rest of the world joins in because everybody loves a party. Not that he was actually born on December 25, but any day is good enough. There are historical reasons why this particular date was chosen, but I’m not going to provide a history lesson today. You probably have the day off work and school, so you can look it up yourself.

Christians see the birth of Jesus as a miracle, setting the stage for numerous miracles throughout his life, culminating in his resurrection. Most of the world rejects that idea, but Christianity has never been about what is popular, just about what is right. But I do want to tell you about an email from a friend describing an encounter her brother had last month at the church he and his family attend. It is a church of a Canadian denomination well known for its liberal theology.

Yesterday they all went to church, and after church, the minister’s wife was chatting with them, and talked about how, in the youth group, she has been discussing with the teenagers how the most likely cause of Jesus’ birth was that Mary was raped by Roman soldiers, Joseph married her anyway, and the miracle is that God was able to take a baby with such a horrible beginning and still make him a good person.

That wasn’t the only issue: her husband (the minister) had a talk with my brother a few weeks ago along the lines of “It would be incredibly arrogant of us to assume that there was only one religion, one way that God could create for people to interact with him and therefore I will not say that Jesus is the only path to God”

I agree that would be incredibly arrogant to assume that. I don’t like the thought myself. But it is not my choice. Jesus himself was very explicit about the path to a relationship with God, one way and one way only. I wasn’t given a vote in the matter. And if Jesus wasn’t divine that doesn’t explain how the rest of the story takes place. There’s a certain consistency which falls apart when you start inventing scenarios not in the original manuscripts. History records how people behaved in relationship to Jesus, and they would not have acted the way they did if the Bible version was not historically accurate.

Sadly, this story did not surprise me. I have noted that particular denomination has drifted from its historical evangelical roots. I have experience with it myself.

When we moved to Pembroke, Ontario, almost 30 years ago, we really didn’t know anyone. That meant that when it came to choosing which church to attend there were no expectations. So we took some time and checked out a few. Some were close to our apartment, others recommended by acquaintances. One Sunday morning we visited a church of that Canadian denomination.

The service was fairly traditional, pleasant enough, but it was at the coffee time following the service that we decided it wasn’t the right fit for us. One woman was positively gushing in how great the church was and why we should join. Her reason? “They don’t ask you to believe anything hard.”

That suggests a limited view of God’s abilities. If we create God in our own image we think too small. If it doesn’t seem logical or humanly possible we assume that it is impossible. A baby born of a virgin is a logical impossibility, from a human perspective. I understand why people would want to speculate and suggest alternative scenarios. The idea of miracles makes people very uncomfortable. Virgin birth, healing the sick, turning water into wine, resurrection, they all fit into the same category – there is no human explanation. The things of God are not necessarily hard things to believe, but they are challenging ones.

Take another look at that baby whose birthday we celebrate on Christmas Day. Look at his life; look at the historical record of what happened after Christmas. Sometimes hard things aren’t so hard to believe when you take a second look.

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