Believable = True ?

I recently led an assembly at St Michael’s School about the wall that separates Israel from the West Bank. The wall is a terrible modern construction which, though it has reduced the amount of terrorist attacks on Israel, has increased the misery of the Palestinians and the apartheid system under which they live. I wanted to show the children some images of it, and so I searched the internet.

Searching for images and information was a reminder of how carefully you have to treat information on the internet. One particularly disturbing image was what was reputed to be a remote controlled machine gun perched on the wall in Bethlehem, pointed toward the Palestinian side. However further searching revealed that it was not a machine gun but a water cannon, that sprayed skunk water; still very unpleasant, but not lethal.

In searching for some of the celebrated Banksy grafitti murals on the wall, I found a page that says Banksy had desecrated the western wall of the Jewish temple, with a mural of an elephant with a bomb strapped to its back, sprayed on to the wailing wall; a neat piece of photoshopping, but completely false.

We need to be careful with what we believe to be true and check our sources. Truth on the internet comes cheap, we must never blindly accept that if information is on the internet and revealed by a google search then it must be true.

Thomas was skeptical about what his fellow apostles told him about the risen Christ appearing to them. He wasn’t going to be swept along with their hysterical ravings; he wanted proof, to touch the flesh of the wounded risen Christ before he believed.

Thomas was fortunate to be blessed by the sight of the risen Christ, and the invitation to put his fingers into Christ’s wounds. We do not know if he did, though artists have shown him putting his hand into the wound in Christ’s side. The gospels do not say that he did, but that he acclaimed the risen Christ as his Lord and his God.

How much more blessed, says Jesus, are those who have not seen and yet believe. Some people find it impossible to believe without evidence of the existence of God. A maths teacher was tasked with teaching RE at a secondary school, much against the wishes of the children, who did not see the point of this useless subject. He gave them the opportunity to prove that God did not exist, and if so they would not then bother with RE. Just as he could not prove that God existed neither could they prove that he didn’t and he was able to proceed.

The problem for many people with regard to belief in God, is that man has often made him in his own image. God has been used to suit our own purposes. We have to be careful what we say about God, because it affects how people might regard him. For example, I would not say that God took somebody when they died. That makes God sound like a  rapacious predator. Rather than taking I would say that he receives us when we die, he waits like the Father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

It is the task of the Christian to seek to understand God as he is revelaed in Jesus, to know Jesus, the way, the truth and the life, as he truly is and not as we would have him be. This is why belief in the risen Christ matters. We do not believe in two Christs: a historical Jesus who lived and taught and ministered in this world and a different heavenly Jesus, who is free for us to fashion him as we please. No, it is the same Jesus who lived who is risen, ascended and glorified, Jesus who is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow.

The Christian Church in the west suffers where it  has lost the intensity of the early church, when Luke says the disciples shared everything and preached the risen Christ and were given respect. The example coupled with the preaching brought them converts.

On Good Friday I spoke about the Coptic Martyrs killed by Islamic State. One of them was black and not from Egypt but from Chad. It is reported on the internet that he was not a Christian, but was influenced by the example of his fellow prisoners and so impressed by their faith and endurance that he wanted to die with them as a Christian. This is what it says on the internet, which begs the question of how his testimony became known in the wider world. The terrorists would hardly wish for this good advert for Christianity to be broadcast. Is this a presumption by Christian commentators?

Is it true? It may not be true. But is it believable?