A lack of grace

These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. — Jesus

What is it with Christian Evangelists, or maybe I should say some, for whom a more apt description would be Christian fundamentalists? They get up ones nose. I would not say I hate them, but they certainly disgust me.

Yesterday I was outside Nuestra Señora de la Peña de Francia en la Plaza de Iglesia en Puerto de la Cruz en Tenerife and overheard three people saying the church was closed. I politely interrupted them and said no it was not closed, it was open. What was apparently the mother and father walked off saying they would be back later leaving their son to look in the church.

He asked was I a Christian. I said it was not necessary to be a Christian to look in a church.

He must have thought this was a sign I needed ´saving´ as he reached in his bag to hand me some leaflets he thought or maybe insisted I should read and asked if I knew of Our Lord, that He had died on the cross to save sinners like me.

I beat him to it. I said I possibly knew more than he and showed him the first stanza of ´The Hound of Heaven´, and suggested that he read Why I Am a Christian by John Stott.

I told him God prodded and goaded.

This was a sign for him to offer to read to me from the Old Testament. He asked whether I knew a particular psalm, which I did, but I said I did not know the Old Testament well and preferred the New.

He told me both were the same God, to which I replied as was the Koran and cited the path to salvation was to believe in the one God and to do good.

This immediately put me beyond the pale. No it was nothing to do with doing good and Muslims were different and did not recognise Jesus.

I patiently explained this was not the case and was the ignorance of Christians who did not know the Koran. I explained the importance of Jesus in the Koran, and at the End of Days (in Mathew) Jesus would sit in Judgement, the sheep from the goats, ask why you did not give me a drink when I thirst, food when hungry, shelter when needed. But I did not see you my Lord. Was I not the beggar?

At this point I was not considered worthy of talking to and he walked off in a huff into the church.

In the meantime his parents had walked back and said they would see him at St Telmo.

I looked in the church a few minutes later, but he had gone.

I then found him looking out to sea looking very lost. I told him his parents had gone to St Telmo and I would take him there. I was probably the last person whose help he sought, but he had no choice. I could have just pointed it out, but I thought no, I would make the point of escorting him there.

I showed him a copy of The Big Question, but all I got was a gruff not interested.

We walked along in silence. It must have got to him as he asked me did I know Puerto de la Cruz and how long was I there? I told him yes, that I was there for three weeks, was then in England for a few days before going to Istanbul for a St Joseph´s Day party.

Istanbul?

He was now totally confused and perplexed.

I asked him did he know when this was?

No, he did not, so I told him 19 March. I then explained why I was there, as a guest of devout Catholic writer Paulo Coelho. Who of course he had never heard of.

I explained who Paulo Coelho was, that The Alchemist had sold over 40 million copies worldwide, but that Paulo Coelho was little known in England.

He then said I must be someone very important!

We by then had reached St Telmo.

I was tempted to hand him over to his parents with the comment, here is your ungracious son, but I resisted the temptation.

I did not tell him that in Istanbul we hope to attend Friday prayers!

Why do people behave like this? Do they not realise the damage they do? They are ego-tripping, believing they are doing good.

Archbishop William Temple spoke of the sin of self, self-centredness, that salvation was the freedom from self.

The favourite definition of a sinner of Martin Luther was homo in se incurvatus, ie man curved in on himself.

Jesus did not force people to adopt His faith. Indeed, He resisted the Temptation offered by the Devil.

Paulo Coelho in The Valkeryies and Philip Yancey in The Jesus I Never Knew, both tell the same story of a Grand Inquisitor telling Jesus they were having to undo the harm He had caused by giving people free will, they had to be forced to believe for their own salvation. [see The Grand Inquisitor]

Jesus did not demand, He did not pump out propaganda, He issued a humble invitation (Matthew 11:28):

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Why do people lack the grace of Coelho and Yancey?

But some good of this encounter. I had told this rather ungracious young man that I had never found St Telmo open. To my surprise I found it open.

Top story in El Religion Diario (Friday 4 March 2011).

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5 Responses to “A lack of grace”

  1. Daniel Says:

    Just reading this post, I’m very confused on what you believe.

  2. suzanneas Says:

    no confusion…some regimes, politicians, clergy, people, and the radicals of these people and ordinary ones…tend to widen the gap among the people of the world…there’s one god for all…and he’s a god for each of us at the same time… and equally to each of us… and the sinners more than the believers???” and i mean who claim that god is theirs more than others.”.. god is not a company owned by special people as some claim… and if the energy put to help needy hand hungry people of the world instead of working on differences…all the world will be better…this is my belief… and i believe in only this

    • keithpp Says:

      I could not agree more Suzanne!

      I think it is in By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept where Paulo Coelho writes of God being known by a thousand names.

      Jesus said that In my Father´s House there are many mansions.

      Sadly some people are not only ignorant, but arrogant in their ignorance.

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