One of the most dishonest words we use? “Personally.” I was re- reading C.S. Lewis’s wonderful book, “The Great Divorce” this morning. He says that when we use the word “personally” we give it an emphasis that shows we don’t mean it! We use the word “personally” but actually the way we say the word shows that what we then go on and express after we have said it, is the way we think it should be for everyone, universally! C.S.Lewis is embarrassingly spot on!
Jesus was truthful in all His speech. He never misused the word “Personally” In fact He never used that word or any other similar word in the dishonest way that we do. He said with authority, “I say unto you..” This is what marked Him out from other teachers of the day and made His claims so extreme that either they were blasphemous or true. He appealed to His own authority as the Son sent by the Father with the Father’s words.He never shared His opinion, but spoke as one who stated truth that is true all the time and for everyone everywhere. I guess this is what makes the Jesus of the Gospels extremely offensive in this day and age. He never said, “Well personally, I think I am the Son of the Blessed” when He was directly asked. He said, “I am.” He did not say, “Personally, I think I am the way to the Father,”: He said, “I am the Way the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.” We are beginning, even in the UK, to climb once more the foothills of opposition and consequence for simply believing this. How steep and arduous will the climb become? Personally (truthfully meant) I have no idea and disagree with Conspiracy Theorists and with those who exaggerate or who are scaremongers. Let’s remember in our prayers though, our brothers and sisters in other lands for whom this is a climb so steep that it has cost them their earthly freedom and their lives. One of the most humbling moments in my life was being with my wife in a setting where persecuted Christian leaders were singing that they had suffered much for Christ and were willing to suffer more and to lay down their lives for him. We were supposed to be there in a “teaching” capacity. How could we fulfil that role? How could we do anything other than give honour where honour was due? Throughout our time in that country we were surrounded more or less everywhere we went by bodyguards, sometimes armed. The delegates had no such protection.
… and yet the belief and the philosophy continues to gather pace and is almost enshrined and protected by law these days: “There are many ways up the mountain to God.” Well, there may be as many ways to Christ as there are people who have ever come to Him and who may yet, but there is no other name given by which we may be saved other than the Name of Jesus.
This is nothing new. From the start, as it moved out in mission, the Church was faced with the same challenge: how to present the exclusive claims of Christ in a culture of many philosophies many gods and goddesses etc. There may be faiths around, for example fundamentalist militant atheism, that were not as common then, but essentially it is still the same situation. There has always been a question which confronts us in a new form in every generation and in every culture where Christians live: though we give to Caesar what is Caesar’s who is Lord; Caesar or Jesus? Where does hope for the human race really lie?