1 Corinthians 3.10-11
"By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and
someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one
can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ." (NIV)
So, what does it mean to make Jesus the foundation
of our personal lives? A common mistake
is to imagine that by asking Jesus to be our foundation, or to come into our
lives (as an evangelical might say) he will help us with all our problems. In other words, some folks come to church to
ask for God’s help, with their suffering, or their finances, or the health of a
loved one. This, my friends, is a common
mistake. It is the same mistake made by
everyone who thinks of God as some sort of Father Christmas figure; someone who
will grant favours in return for the right prayers. It’s the same mistake that the Israelites
made in the wilderness when they started to worship a golden calf. It’s the same mistake that all religions make
when they erect statues of gods and then ply those statues with gifts of food
or riches, in an attempt to receive a blessing.
When we make Jesus our foundation, or ask him into
our lives, we are actually saying that we want to become more like Jesus. He is the model, the pattern, for the perfect
human life. He is the image that we need
to copy, or to emulate, in order to attain the promise of a fully lived life, in
sickness and in health, in poverty or in plenty. From the life of Jesus we learn how to live
simply, to love extravagantly, to forgive constantly and to rest frequently. From his death, we learn the value of
sacrifice. From his resurrection, we
learn that all deaths and disasters can be overcome, transformed and reshaped by
God’s power. By making Jesus our
foundation and focus, we learn how to live life to the full.
When I was a young Christian, I used to wear with woven
hippy-bracelet with the letters WWJD on it.
‘What would Jesus do?’. It’s a
really good question to ask ourselves in every circumstance of life. If I’m feeling angry, or afraid, what would
Jesus do? If I’m feeling greedy or lazy…what
would Jesus do? If I’m suffering, or if
I’m celebrating, what would Jesus do?
But there is a danger to navigate when we ask this
question. The danger is that, unless we
KNOW Jesus, there is always the danger that we will create him in our OWN
image. That’s what happens when people
who claim the name of Christian say or do hateful things. Nationalism, for example, is not a Christian
idea. Hatred of foreigners, is not
Christian. Trolling people we disagree
with, on social media or in person, is not Christian. Refusing to forgive someone who has wronged
us is not Christian. Oppressing women,
causing the poverty of others, exploiting the planet’s resources for our own
pleasure and convenience, is not what Jesus would do. The accumulation of vast personal wealth is
not what Jesus would do.
But how shall we know? How shall we tell which attitudes and
decisions we make are really Christian, and which are not? Only, my friends, by spending time with
Jesus. The main way we have been given
to do that is through the pages of the Gospels.
Only by soaking ourselves in the attitudes, teachings and life of Jesus
in the Gospels can we ever hope to be wise enough to know what Jesus would do. So, let me ask you this: when did you last open a Gospel and read it –
and really soak yourself in it? I
suspect that for many of us, the answer to that question might be a bit
I’d like to suggest a tiny change in the language we
Christians use. The work ‘Christian’
gets banded about a lot in our society.
We are told that we live in a ‘Christian’ country (though some argue
that actually we live in a post-Christian one).
The word Christian is, to our shame, associated with all sorts of
horrible things. At best, Christians are
perceived as naïve fools who think that prayers to an invisible deity will be
answered. Or we are associated with
gluttonous levels of spending on fine buildings, gold and silver ornaments, and
the wasteful refurbishment of crumbling ruins, while millions starve. At worst, the word Christian is associated in
the public mind with hateful anti-gay rhetoric, or the oppression of women, or
at the very worst, awful cases of sexual abuse within the church.
But I want us to reclaim the word. So, whenever the topic comes up, I choose to
use the phrase ‘CHRIST-ian’ (with the emphasis on Christ). I won’t say that I’m a ‘Kristjen’ – no, I’m trying
to be a CHRIST-ian – someone who is deliberately and diligently aiming to base
my life on the teachings of Jesus Christ.
That takes work. It takes a
willingness to continually renew my knowledge about Christ, through the Gospels,
so that the question of what Jesus would do becomes easier and easier to answer. It takes effort to build a strong foundation for
my faith, and for my life. Will you join
me in that effort? Amen.