Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Year of Sidestepping Jesus


Avoid. Bypass. Duck. Evade. Dance around.

Sidestep. We’ve all done it.

Avoiding eye contact in the church lobby with a woman you enjoyed working with on a committee at church until you had THAT discussion.

Crossing the street when you see a neighbor who just lost his wife in a car accident.

Letting your phone go to voicemail rather than answer a call from someone who frequently asks for help.

Time for me to confess. No pretty, euphemistic way to say it.

I spent a year—at least at year—sidestepping Jesus.

I didn’t do it to be mean. In fact, I thought I did it to be kind.  You see, people I love dearly have developed an aversion to Jesus. They don’t want to talk about Him. They don’t want to hear about Him. And they vocally state that they no longer believe Jesus is God and that His death on the cross makes any difference.

Ouch.

My peacemaker instinct reared its head. What to do?

Continue to speak of Jesus despite awkward silences or perhaps hostile retorts?

Reframe Jesus to make Him more approachable?

Sidestep Jesus by talking in general terms about God rather than specifically naming Jesus?

Sidestepping Jesus seemed the kind, gentle way of keeping the peace. Or so I reasoned. And thus began my year, or more, of sidestepping Jesus.

When I wrote my book Storm Sisters, I carefully referenced God and included scripture verses. But I purposely limited my references to Jesus. I rationalized my decision: I want people who don’t believe in Jesus to open the pages of my book and think about the Bible and about God. I don’t want them to stumble over Jesus, particularly his birth, death, and resurrection.

After my book released, a friend said to me over coffee, “I read your book and liked it. I wondered why I didn’t see a lot of Jesus in it.”

Months later I signed on to work with the Alpha course (a series of interactive sessions that freely explore the basics of the Christian faith), confident that I had learned how to speak of Christianity in a peace-making, non-polarizing sort of way. A sidestepping-Jesus-sort-of-way.

When I glanced at our list of topics for our weeks together, Session Two gave me pause: Who Is Jesus?

 Really? Why couldn’t we save this topic for later in our discussion?  Ease into it in a sidestepping sort of way? After all, most of these people did not yet call themselves believers in God.

Well, we did not wait. We jumped in to Jesus on Week Two using the book Questions of Life by Alpha founder Nicky Gumbel. Nicky gives a clear, rational, historical defense of Jesus. Our guest speaker that day added to our reading, speaking earnestly and winsomely of Jesus.

Did people flinch? No.

Did people respond with angry retorts? No.

Did they ask questions? Yes.

Did we have a respectful conversation? Yes.

I watched and listened. And I began to squirm. Sidestepping Jesus suddenly no longer seemed a kind gesture; instead it appeared blazingly bright as something else—cowardice. Deep down, I knew I had sidestepped Jesus because I feared I could not defend Him against public scrutiny.
And yet, around that Alpha table that morning and later as we studied the Gospel of Luke together, Jesus held His own. I had seen this same phenomenon happen years earlier in a neighborhood Bible study as we studied and discussed honestly the Gospel of Mark.

On that Alpha morning, as my cowardice washed over me, I realized that by sidestepping Jesus, I had actually sidestepped the central focus of my faith—the very core of Christianity.

Forgive me, dearest Jesus. Forgive me.

Written By Afton Rorvik

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