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Have you ever discovered an answer to a question you never asked?
I did. And it left me with so many more questions I thought my mind would explode.
What was that question? Simply, is Jesus really the Son of God?
That’s why I started an Alpha course.
If that sounds like an intimidating prospect, let me assure you it’s not what you may think. Alpha has a unique culture, one of acceptance, equality, openness, and exploration. Alpha is not a place where you’re told that you’re wrong. It’s a place where you’re encouraged to question, both what’s being taught and what you think about it.
I enjoyed it so much that once I’d finished the Alpha course I joined a follow-up called Beta and then, not quite getting my fill, joined the team of volunteers for the course after that! I was hooked!
A typical Alpha evening, if you’re curious, is broken into three parts: dinner/socialising, a short talk and then finishing in a discussion group. When I volunteer I was there to help people feel at ease and facilitate discussion. My discussion group was made up of some people who called themselves Christians, followers of Jesus and others who were still exploring His claims.
One question they was what made me write this piece in the first place, and that question was: “You are all Christians so what do you think about us non-Christians?”
What an amazing question – it was particularly poignant as it came after a discussion about how judgemental Christians can be!
It asks so many things that are essential to being a follower of Jesus. It asks, first and foremost, what you think of people who have fundamentally different beliefs to you, and when you talk to them whether you’re focus is based on performance or love. It asks how you see and value the person beneath or aside from their beliefs. It asks how you understand the word neighbour when Jesus tells us to love our neighbour. And it asks if we can understand God’s fathering heart when He gives us all free will.
My response to the questions was simply “You’re people so I love you. Even if you finish Alpha and don’t believe what I’ve come to believe, I will still love you because you’re still people.” You see I’ve come to understand that all people have dignity, value and worth. All people were made in the image and likeness of God and that loving others without an agenda is critical if I’m going to be like the one I want to follow.
Am I writing this then to boast in my accomplishment? Well, no. Quite the opposite in fact, as it does not feel like an accomplishment at all. It does not feel like I’ve done anything or been anything. And, to me, it feels quite astounding to be able to declare such a statement and actually mean it.
Why is it astounding?
Because I can’t quite understand what happened. The Arun of two years ago was quick to judge, to find fault, to talk people down, to argue, to criticise, to insult, and all in the pursuit to feel some self-worth? I must ask: where is he now? I’ve known that Arun far longer than I’ve known this one.
As I mentioned earlier, I discovered the answer before I asked the question. It was two years ago that I discovered that Jesus the Son of God is alive. One night I went to bed an atheist and woke up having encountered Him in a dream – He is truly and fully alive.
If you read that statement and nodded in agreement then you are in the place I was, and often return to. Jesus being alive can be something we think, believe, say and even boldly proclaim, yet forget what it really means. It’s not just a saying. It has implications – life changing implications.
If Jesus is alive then you can be free. If Jesus is alive then everything He said is true. If Jesus is alive then we no longer need to be slaves to our past lives and problems, but can be children of God. If Jesus is alive then you need not be the same person you once were just as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 those who follow him are a ‘new creation’.
How can I look in the face of a stranger and see a brother or a sister to love? How can this be possible without any effort or thought on my part? It’s because Jesus is alive, and He’s changed me. I never tried to love others; I never thought that I should act and think and see in love, it just happened.
The focus in Alpha groups for those still exploring can be centred so much around heaven that we can forget Jesus is alive now. He said that we have life eternal, but He also said: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). That means here, now, you get to live. I get to live and it’s all because Jesus lives.
Take a moment to think about what Jesus has done for you. If you, like me, came to faith as adult, take a moment to remember your previous self. If you’ve known Jesus since you could remember, then take a moment to think of all He has done for you. If you’re still exploring, take that next step, ask that next question, discover for yourself the life-changing news that Jesus is alive.
It’s such good news and I don’t know about you but I want tell somebody.