Less Theory: More Love Affair

Posted by Tim Hughes on 10 June 2014


With all the scientific and medical advances, sometimes it is hard to find anything that astounds and surprises us. Mystery and wonder have been lost. Take the sense of wonder from human beings and you make them the poorer. Looking in a dictionary, I find words that cluster around the idea of wonder include amazement, surprise, astonishment, bewilderment, admiration, awe and fascination. When we look to Jesus, when we soak in his word, these are the kinds of response that should grip our hearts. Thomas Carlyle wrote that ‘wonder is the basis of worship’. As our eyes are opened to all that Jesus has done, and as these mysteries amaze us, our only response should be heartfelt worship.

When I was a little boy, one of life’s highlights was when my dad would say, ‘Tim, we’re going to McDonald’s for dinner today.’ I loved it. As we’d approach the golden arches the excitement was overwhelming. We’d join the queue and I’d order the same thing every time: Big Mac, fries and chocolate milkshake. Every mouthful was amazing and nothing else in life could compare with eating at McDonald’s. Now that I’ve left home and have had to learn to cook for myself, I’ve found myself visiting McDonald’s all too often. Just recently I popped in for some lunch and ordered my usual. As I was walking out it suddenly dawned on me that something dreadful had happened. I’d lost the wonder of McDonald’s!

Complacency can be such a dangerous thing. If we have been Christians for a long time we can so easily fall into this. We’ve heard the stories thousands of times, we’ve sung the songs and prayed the prayers, and now nothing really surprises us. If I’m honest, often when I read the Bible my heart isn’t full of wonder. As I sing to Jesus I’m not overcome by awe. The hymnwriter William Cowper wrote in 1769, ‘Where is the blessedness I knew when I first saw the Lord? Where is the soul-refreshing view of Jesus and His word?’ These words are often my words. Romans 12:11 says, ‘Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.’ We have a responsibility to maintain our passion for Jesus. We need to find those places of wonder where our souls can be refreshed by who Jesus is.

G. K. Chesterton once said, ‘Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair.’ For this reason we need to pray for more revelation. In my life there have been times when I’ve become legalistic and tried to love God more by doing religious things. These haven’t deepened my passion for Jesus. The only thing that will is God-given revelation of who he is.

Keeping our eyes on Jesus

It’s always horrible to lose something of worth. When this happens we are sure to search high and low until we have found whatever we have lost. For a parent, the worst nightmare must be that of a child going missing. I remember, when I was about ten, coming home from school to find my mum deeply distressed. My little brother Stephen, who was about four at the time, had been missing all afternoon. My parents had looked everywhere and the police were now involved in the search. I started running around the neighbourhood calling out for Steve, desperately hoping he’d be all right. After about half an hour I came back home and was in our back garden when I saw something in the bushes and went to investigate. To my delight I found Stephen fast asleep under the bush. He’d been playing football and had kicked the ball into the bush. He obviously went to recover the ball, but for some bizarre reason decided to have a little siesta there. Immediately everything was all right. The panic and fear became a distant memory. All that mattered was that Stephen was found.

Luke’s Gospel tells us the story of when Mary and Joseph lost their son Jesus:

Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they travelled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.’ (Luke 2:41–48)

Whenever I read this story I’m surprised at how Mary and Joseph failed to notice that Jesus wasn’t with them for so long. How could they lose their twelve-year-old son? Were they bad parents? Did they not care about Jesus? It is reasonable to suppose that Mary and Joseph loved their son. So what happened? It seems that in the rush and stress of organising everyone to return home after the festival, Mary and Joseph took their eyes off Jesus. They assumed he was in their company. They had become complacent that Jesus would always be with them and had, for a while, stopped paying attention to his whereabouts. It was only after a day that they actually took stock and realised Jesus was missing. When they eventually found him,

Mary was clearly relieved, as well as being pretty cross!

We can’t be too harsh on Mary and Joseph. The truth is that at times we can all get complacent in our relationship with Jesus. So often I find myself rushing around from meeting to meeting. It’s only when I get to the end of the day that I look back and realise that I’ve failed to involve Jesus in all that I’ve done. I haven’t been mindful of him and have assumed that I’m walking in his paths. I keep on doing all the right things, but inwardly I’m not maintaining my relationship with my Saviour.

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