Talk Four: Only the few
The nice thing about being God is that you don’t need anyone to believe in you. By virtue of being God, you don’t need anyone or anything to validate your existence. That is, by definition, what it means to be God. So when, for example, Moses asked the voice from the burning bush who he should say was sending him to tell Pharaoh to ‘let his people go’, the reply he got was to tell them, ‘I Am Who I Am’ had sent him. God is - whether people believe in him or not.
God does not need us, but the opposite is true for us. We do need God. I don’t mean that we need him in an emotional sense as we might need someone to love or to love us, although that is true too. No, we need God in the literal sense that our very existence depends on him as does the physical world in which we live. As St Paul said, ‘in him we live and move and have our being’.
It is this dependence on God for our very existence that makes the idea that we should keep faith and science separate from each other so funny and ridiculous at the same time. There would be no science without God. God not only thought of the world the scientist studies in the first place, he brought it into being and, what is more, he keeps it in being as he does the scientist who studies it - whether he or she realizes it or not.
The reason why the Gospel message is so amazing is that despite not needing us, and despite everything we have done as individuals and as a race to either annoy or ignore him, he hasn’t lost interest in us. More than that, he continues to love us and to offer us the chance not only of forgiveness for the mess we have made both of ourselves and his creation, but of knowing him and entering a relationship with him. A relationship not simply of a creature to their creator, but of a child to their father. Sadly, all too many of us don’t think it is worth the effort, and choose a cosy agnosticism rather than seeking him. This agnosticism is no more than atheism by another name. It is a convenient reason to exclude God from our lives.
Christians can get very worried about this. God may not need anyone to believe in him, but we do. We seem to need people to believe in God if only to reassure ourselves that we are not mistaken in our faith or because we need the approval that comes through popularity. It is this, in part, that explains the present desire of many Christians to be relevant even at the cost of changing their message.
Christians, however, have nothing to lose by being unpopular and in a minority and everything to gain. Jesus’ brother, James, said that to be friends with the society around us is to be an 'enemy with God'. Having God as our friend is surely worth a little unpopularity and rejection?
St Paul reassured the Christians in Rome who seemed powerless and irrelevant compared to might and splendour of Rome with these words: ‘If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?’ He continues to tell them that a little suffering - and he himself suffered more than a little - is ultimately of no consequence. ‘Nothing’, he says, ‘in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’.
It is, of course, sad that people don’t believe in God. Sad that they prefer to worship the creature rather the Creator. Sad that they prefer material wealth to spiritual riches. Sad that they think themselves clever not believing in God when all it shows is their foolishness. But it doesn’t change anything, God still is.
On one occasion, Jesus was asked whether only a few will be saved. It can feel like that at times, especially in the society in which we find ourselves. The temptation is to doubt or despair or to change our message to make it easier for people to believe so that we won’t be so few and alone. However, in his most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned against such an approach:
‘Enter’, he said, ‘through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.’
Believing in God may be hard in the age in which we live, yet God never said it would be easy. But then, nothing worth having ever is.