The other day my son was searching for an interesting book to read because he has an allotted amount of time he is expected to read for school each day. He doesn’t love reading so I knew his next book needed to be interesting enough to hold his attention.
I remembered I had been challenged and riveted by the book “Let Me Tell You A Story” by Tony Campolo. Along with being an excellent storyteller Campolo is a minister, a sociologist and an author. Before I gave my son the book I skimmed it looking for stories that had moved me. He has had to find another book since then because I keep taking it from him.
I was struck by a particular story that challenged me to look again at the sermon Jesus preached on a hillside near Capernaum, found in Matthew 5. I hope you find it compelling as well.
Who We Should Be
“While teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, I became good friends with a young Jewish man who eventually made a commitment to Christ. As I tried to mentor him and give him direction as to how to live the Christian life, I advised him to go to a particular church that was well known for it’s biblically based preaching, to help him get a better handle on what the Bible is all about.
When I met my friend several weeks later, he said to me, ‘You know, if you put together a committee and asked them to take the Beattitudes and create a religion that contradicted every one of them, you would come pretty close to what I am hearing down there at that church.
Whereas Jesus said “Blessed are the poor,” down there they make it clear that it is the rich who are blessed.‘Jesus said, “Blessed are they that mourn,” but the people at the church have a religion that promises happiness with no crucifixions.
Whereas Jesus talked about the meek being blessed, they talk as if they took assertiveness-training courses.
Jesus may have talked about the merciful and the peacemakers, but those people are the most enthusiastic supporters of American militarism and capital punishment I have ever met.’‘
Jesus may have lifted up those who endured persecution because they dared to embrace a radical gospel, but the church declares a gospel that espouses middle-class success and affirms a lifestyle marked by social prestige.
’As I listened to my friend’s accusing words about the church, I realized that it could just as well be aimed at me. Since that conversation, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on whether or not my lifestyle is really Christian.
Sören Kierkegaard once said, ‘If you mean by Christian what the Sermon on the Mount says about being a Christian, then in any given time in history, there might be four or five such persons who would have the right to call themselves Christians.’ “