I have just finished studying English Literature at Brookes, where I got to be involved with CU pretty much from the start. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a Christian family and so have known about Jesus all my life, but it was not until I was a teenager that I discovered who he is for myself. I was getting involved in music ministries at church at the same time as studying Philosophy at school, and both encouraged me to explore deeper the message of the gospel. In the first instance, I was a shy bass player, comfortable standing in the back corner, until being put on the spot when asked to sing. Christian music is all well and good when you’re playing it, but being called out of my comfort zone to sing in front of people made me question why we sing in church at all, and I began to pay much more attention to the words than I had before. These weren’t just nice lyrics about everything being fine and dandy, they had real meaning. Most often quoting Bible verses directly, these songs told, and tell, gospel truths about who Jesus is, what he has done for us, and how we respond to him. This made me want to read the Bible for myself, to find out more about the Jesus we were singing to, what he did, and what he said.
At the same time, studying Philosophy, I was often finding myself in debates about the existence of God with some very intelligent people who were pretty good at arguing their case. I realised that I had just accepted that I was a Christian, without really thinking about it, and that isn’t faith. So, I went back to the Bible, the written word of God where he speaks directly, and, as a great lover of literature, I found that it was a pretty good story. Jesus himself loved to tell stories, and this might be one of the best. He talks about a son who claims his inheritance and then turns away from his father, taking his money and leaving. He then throws away the inheritance on fruitless pursuits until he has nothing left, and he is tired, wretched and broken. Crawling back to his father, he plans to beg for forgiveness, but before he can open his mouth his father runs to him with open arms and he is forgiven (Luke 15). We have a father like this, a father who sees our faults and our brokenness, and instead of turning us away and rejecting us in return, he opens his arms and welcomes us home. The cross is a perfect symbol of this. He reaches down from heaven with arms open wide. He is willing to give himself as a substitute, to take the punishment we deserve on himself so that we can call him our father once more. And to top that, he then rises from the grave, so powerful that even death cannot stand against his love.
I think that’s pretty cool. And, to be honest, pretty baffling. But then that’s grace, to take my place on the cross so that I can be made right with God. There is no way that I deserve this. No matter how nice and ‘good’ I think I am, I’m still broken and sinful, I still make mistakes, but I know that God loves me and gave his everything for me, so surely, I should be doing the same for him in return. I’m not a Christian out of a sense of duty, that’s not what faith is. I know my father loves me despite my faults, and I choose to live my life in a way that honours him in response. This doesn’t mean that my life is then suddenly made easy. Jesus himself said ‘in this world you will have troubles, but take heart, for I have overcome the world’ (John 16.33). I choose to follow him, trusting that even when life is difficult, I know that ultimately my father knows me and loves me, he sees my brokenness and runs to me with open arms.