Sitting inside a sauna hot-room only yesterday, two other occupants, a man and a woman, were in a discussion about dating websites. I just listened as I lay on my back gazing at the pine panelling which made up the ceiling whilst saying nothing. It was after the female had walked out of the cabin to cool herself off that I pulled to sitting position and announced that such websites I steer well clear of, or for that matter, from any dating media. Fortunately, I met my future wife on a face-to-face encounter without the need for any intermediary organisations. With such an announcement I made to him, the rest of the conversation went something like this:
"As a matter of fact, it was she who noticed me first, and decided there and then that I was the man for her to spend the rest of her life with."
Where did you two meet? He asked.
"In church." I answered.
I don't mind going to church from time to time. But what I cannot stand is anyone trying to push religion down my throat.
Then I responded, "Going to church for me is not religion. Rather it's more like calling at a friend's home for a chat. Only a bit more reverently."
The chap seemed impressed, which makes me believe that he had not heard it come across this way before. Yet coming to think of it, I now wished that I have use the words to celebrate rather than for a chat. But I can't turn back the clock. However, I continued,
"I am committed to Jesus. After all, for him to be crucified, buried, and then rose again from the dead in order to give me eternal life - well, how could I refuse such an offer?"
With that, he quickly rose and walked out of the sauna cabin, leaving me as the sole occupant.
I can't stand anyone pushing religion down my throat. As I sat there alone, I was wondering whether I had done just that, when my intention was to testify about God's goodness to me, and not tell him to turn or burn forever! So with his sudden departure, I felt somewhat deflated. And nursing the psychological soreness brought about by the burden of Biblical instructions to Go into the world and preach the Gospel to every creature...(Mark 16:15) - there are times that I'm feeling squeezed into a corner by a supposed privilege I find very difficult to keep, if not impossible. Maybe it's that subconscious obligation of carrying out the task properly and efficiently enough to "win souls to Jesus" - or better still, to make disciples of all nations, which makes me think that at the Judgement Seat of Christ, the Lord will approach me with the question: Why did you neglect, or make such a mess of the Great Commission I gave you? Indeed, suppose I told the fellow sauna user to turn or burn with a severity of a warning, would that had gladdened his heart towards changing his mind? Or strike him with a fear of a possible eternity in hell? Or instead, would have created a barrier of hostility? I can't help feeling the end would have been the third option.
Was all this coincidental of being in the same week as a report I read about concerning a whiteboard at Dollis Hill station on the London Underground? On it was scrawled the commemoration of a grand evangelistic campaign where four thousand Zulus were converted to Christ by a few British missionaries who were all glowering with the love of God for these indigenous people, and as the story goes, the entire tribe thundered their praise and thanksgiving to God Most High for their wonderful revelation and receiving of their salvation, along with the mass baptisms which followed.
Rather, the commemoration was of a battle which took place at Natal, South Africa, which is about a British garrison, known as Rorke's Drift, of just 150 British troops defeating 4,000 Zulu warriors on the 22-23 January, 1879, after invasion on that same month and year. Following the battle, eleven men received the Victoria Cross. This battle was the setting for a 1964 film Zulu, starring Michael Caine. The whiteboard notice attracted singer Lily Allen via a Tweet, who immediately condemned it. Soon after the criticism, a member of the Transport for London staff wiped the board clean after apologising to all who were offended by it.
Allen's criticism of past British colonialism may have made herself a hero in the eyes of her fans, but it's anathema to apparently to the majority in our nation, who hold these victories as their height of national pride and glory. And so, according to The Daily Mail's version of the news, the comments forum which follows underneath contains venomous condemnation of the singer along with praise for those troops. As I pour down the column, every single contributor says the same thing - glorifies colonialism whilst demonising Lily Allen. It didn't take long for me to notice something conspicuously missing in both the main article and the comment forum alike: The British invading a foreign land and then killing its inhabitants who wanted to fight for their own rights, their own land, and their own families. And the victory the British won over the far greater number of Zulus must be down to far superior weaponry. After all, how could bows and arrows match up to the guns, and most likely cannons too? Oddly enough, this little detail was omitted from these media reports.
|The whiteboard notice at Dollis Hill Station|
To enter a foreign country to spread the Gospel of salvation out of God's love for these heathen is one thing. To invade to kill, set up a colony and to rule over the remaining indigenous in their own land is quite another. Yet it is patriotically praised and hailed as national glory. But when these same indigenous inhabitants came over here in the UK in the 1950's and 60's and were happy to take on jobs no-one else really wanted, there was discontent and racism.
And I'm sick of it all, yes, sick of it all. With all this talk of Brexit "to regain our national sovereignty from the European Union", I need to ask: Am I witnessing hypocrisy here on a massive scale? I ask this in the light that the Rorke's Drift Garrison was supposed to be ambassadors of a nation holding a Christian constitution, with the King, the Head of State, standing in the intermediary between the country and God. It is all a mystery to me, or am I the one who is so blind? Perhaps I can ask: What is the real difference between the British Empire and that of the Roman Empire, the Greek Empire, or the Babylonian Empire? Does having a Christian Constitution make British colonialism right after all? Especially when other more ancient empires are portrayed as cesspits of evil?
The guy I spoken to in the sauna was by no means hostile, but he did give me a warning that he does not like religion forced down his throat. And so when I thought about testifying instead, he quickly got up and left. It makes me so sad. I am not only a member of a local church, I represent the Body of Christ, a living letter of Christ, one bearing the Light of the World, according to 1 Corinthians 12:27, 2 Corinthians 3:3, and Matthew 5:14 respectively. Where am I failing? Where about in our local church failing? Where about in the universal church failing?
Maybe Paul the Apostle may give a clue to the answer in 1 Corinthians 13, which is the chapter often read at weddings:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and I can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3.
It seems to me that the fellow at the sauna had contacts with churchgoers. He may even share his office space with one or several. I did not ask, I'm only assuming. He did, however, express his association with Christians one way or another. Perhaps, and I can't be dogmatic here, there might well have been times he was witnessed to, but quite likely in the form of "turn or burn" or a very flimsy presentation of Christ whose words were contradicted by their beliefs in Theistic Evolution. But whatever it might have been, there is one issue where I could be more certain, and that is, this chap was not able to discern the true love of God.
I guess I need to be cautious here. Jesus expressed the perfect love of God, yet he was rejected by Israel, that is "his own received him not" according to John 1:11. According to what I have read in the first five books of the New Testament, it looks as though Jesus and his followers were rejected by mainly religious people. In both Matthew's Gospel and Luke's Gospel, I can read about Jesus standing outside the city of Jerusalem, and with his arms extended forwards as if his wanting to embrace the whole city, he wept in public. Wept in public. At least twice - the other occasion was when he learnt of Lazarus' death (Matthew 23:37-39, Luke 19:41-44, John 11:35).
And you may well disagree, but I think this is a major problem here in Britain. Emotional restraint especially where love should flow more freely for the benefit of the recipient. To show emotion here is a sign of weakness and a lack of masculinity among men. This brings something of an oddity. Jesus publicly showed his emotions to the point of shedding tears. Wasn't he masculine, then? It's no surprise that I have heard that Jesus was a cissy, a wimp. The type who may cuddle children but withdraw his hand from any type of heavy manual labour or from military activity. Sure enough, Jesus may have come across as a cissy, but throughout his late part of his ministry, he headed doggedly towards Jerusalem, even foretelling to his disciples that after arrival he would be tried, crucified, and to rise again on the third day. Despite his foreknowledge, and discouragement from Peter, he kept going.
And after arriving in Jerusalem, he stood on a hill and wept for the city, most likely with arms out extending. Yet he raised no protest, no defence when he stood before Pilate. Crowds of people below were shouting in anger and bitter envy. He stood there before Pilate with not a single word of protest said. Instead, he went to the Cross without a single struggle against his oppressors. Now that is masculinity!
Which makes Jesus Christ much stronger than I could ever be. Emotional strength, mental strength, and after his Resurrection, physical strength. And my need for him. My need for his love. My need for his assurance. My need to be embraced by him. To be hugged tightly by the Son of God! Oh, to shed this British reserve! This stiff upper lip nonsense. This cowardly attempt held by some churchgoers "to be to all men". Cowardly, because it's way to hide in the mist, to go with the flow, to stand in the shadows, should anything otherwise should attract attention and meet disapproval. And oh yes, this British bulldog nonsense. Nonsense? In a sense of false masculinity, then yes - nonsense. But if this entity actually exist as an evil spirit hovering in the air, deceiving so many Brits and sending them to a lost eternity, as the apostle wrote about in Ephesians 6:12 - then this is no nonsense. This is a serious issue!
According to my experience, the average male British Christian lives in a different world from the world I live in. Having graduated after a spell at university, they settle in the office where there are many other "nice people" working there. Dressed in shirt and tie, they can barely discern what mud looks like, let alone having it all over their hands. There is never any profanity, no need for smut, as that sort of thing tends to come out from those of low self-esteem. And very emotional restrained, and therefore presenting the ideal Christian morality. It becomes virtually impossible to fault them. So according to more than four decades of church experience.
This middle class culture is quite a world away from where I have been and what I have seen and heard. Working in an all-male furniture factory as an apprentice wood finisher between the years 1968-1973, not only did I had to take on the most basic of dogsbody tasks, but I learnt everything about sex in the most smutty form it could ever take, with swear words I had not even heard of before. As for Jesus, one elderly employee and war veteran, after hearing about a 4,000 year-old corpse excavated fully preserved in ice discovered in China, he shouted, Jesus? They haven't even found his balls! I now wished I replied that if Jesus Christ was resurrected and ascended to heaven, without doubt he would have ascended complete with his scrotum and both testicles. Instead I stood rather spellbound in horror.
This smutty talk continued on into the late seventies when I began to go to the sauna. In those days men bathed entirely naked, as their sessions were on different days of the week from the women's sessions. As a result, throw in a group of working-class men into one hot-room and sooner or later familiarity and a club spirit will breed such vulgar and crude jokes. And I took it all in without a single squeal of protest.
And what did Jesus say to the religious and highly moral? I have come not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. For these tax collectors and sinners will enter the kingdom of God before you.
Luke 5:32, Matthew 21:31.
Maybe that is a true word for today's Brits throughout the whole social class strata.