Following on from the Spam, spam, spam, spam bloggage earlier this week a friend told me about how they had clicked on a link on a well-known social media website (rhymes with spacehook) and a pop-up had come up saying that they could be in line to win an iPhone 6 or other consumer tech from a giveaway section on a large online retailer named after a South American river. They clicked again and found that, lo and behold, they had won a top of the range iPad!
But they were a bit suspicious. The link supposedly to this retailing giant’s website was to the .com version not the .co.uk version, but it was still showing the value of the items in £s.
And more than that, they had never heard of this retailer giving away such expensive items. And why would they?
In the end they applied the ‘if it seems too good to be true then it probably is’ and tried to leave that page. But the pop up kept popping up, and when they tried to delete it the page it was referring to was definitely not the online retailer.
They managed to close the windows in the end, but when they were telling me about it I wondered whether that might be similar to how some churches go about things.
We tell people that we have an offer that is too good to be true, offering them things that they would want, and then when they decide that it’s not true we make it difficult for them to leave. That sounds like a cult to me!
What do I mean? Well, some churches seem to promise a relationship with God where all your dreams come true. Or they say that if you become a Christian then everything will be wonderful after that. Or they suggest that following Jesus will answer all your questions. Or they say that your problems will fade into insignificance if you become a Christian…
And (forgive me if I lack faith here) that’s just not what I read about in the Bible, and it doesn’t match with my experience of following Jesus. Your problems don’t disappear, but you do find that you are not alone with them because you can become more aware of God’s Spirit in you. All your dreams won’t come true, but you may find that your hopes and dreams change to become more in line with God’s will. Everything is not always wonderful, but grace, hope and forgiveness are available in abundance. All your questions won’t be answered, and you’ll still doubt at times, but you’ll find that the questions might seem less important, or might even change to better ones…
I wonder whether churches add special offers to the Good News of Jesus because they wonder whether it’s enough – a relationship with God, a fresh start in life, God’s Spirit in you, a worldwide family, a purpose to live for, hope for the future… But I believe that if we are honest with people that ‘life in all its fullness’ includes the side of life that can lead to the expression of expletives but knowing that God is with you in it, perhaps they will be more ready to believe us with the rest of what Jesus has to offer.
Just a thought.
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One thought on “too good to be true”
J I Packer in “Knowing God” wrote of “a certain type of Gospel ministry” which is unintentionally cruel, because it so stresses the positive aspects of the Faith that it “gives the impression that normal Christian living is a perfect bed of roses, a state of affairs in which everything in the garden is lovely all the time, and problems no longer exist—or, if they come, they have only to be taken to the throne of grace, and they will melt away at once.” He feels that this presentation is lop-sided, mischievous and false.