Is known more widely around the world than any other
Visit the average service at Eden Chapel and you will normally find people from six continents worshipping together. Cambridge is a multicultural city - but more important than that, Christianity is a multicultural faith! Around the world, over 2 billion people would now claim some kind of allegiance to Jesus. Evangelical Christianity is the fastest growing faith in the world. Churches in countries as diverse as South Korea, Argentina and Nigeria are bursting at the seams, and retain their cultural distinctives as well as their common faith in Jesus.
What is it about this first century Jew that can draw together people of such diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds?
- He affirms our common dignity. The Bible teaches that all people are equal in status and significance - “From one man God made every nation” - and Jesus lived this principle out himself in a day and in a society loaded with prejudice. Jesus reaches out a hand to people of every nation and culture.
- He addresses our common fault. We may all be made in God’s image, but “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Human nature is not what it should be; we are made to honour and obey God, living lives which are consciously dependent and submitted to him. We are given free wills to enable us to do that completely and joyfully, not just as pre-programmed robots. But instead, we live life as seems best to us, according to our own wisdom and whims and rejecting the reasonable authority God has over us as our creator. Most obviously, we do things that we know are wrong. Less obviously, we fail do so much that we ought to do, and even our attempts to put things right - the best of our structures and societies - are hardwired with sinful tendencies. But the core of the problem is deeper still - the attitude of our hearts beneath it all, and Jesus puts his finger on it.
- He answers our common need. Our sin leads to guilt and conflict in our own consciences, strife with each other, suffering and decay in the world as a whole, and most of all, alienation from God himself. This is what death is really about - we have made God, the source of life and hope itself, our enemy, and rightly angry at our rebellion and sin. Deep down, every human being has a sense that this is true and needs to be sorted out. In offering us forgiveness and reconciliation, Jesus scratches where everyone itches!
Inspired more thought, culture and creativity than any other
“Does anybody know what we are living for?” Freddy Mercury, the lead singer of Queen, asks that heartbreaking question in the song “The Show Must Go On” - as he himself was dying of AIDS. Our modern culture has no real answer to that question - and that sense of emptiness echoes through it. The show goes on, but nobody knows why. There is no ultimate point to it all. Nothing holds it together, and so people must find their significance in the moment, the experience, the shock and the thrill. So dead cows in formaldehyde become art and white noise becomes music.
Jesus calls us to love God with everything we have - heart, mind, soul and strength. He gives us a reason to pursue excellence in all we do, reflecting God’s creativity in our art and technology and discovering his mind through science and imagination. Whether you are a child blowing bubbles in the garden and marvelling at the colours, or an architect designing a cathedral to stand for a millennium, knowing God through Jesus gives a sense of purpose and significance to what you do.
More than that, Jesus tells his disciples to be “Salt and light”, adding flavour where the world is bland, preserving goodness where it is decaying and giving light where it is dark - making a difference for the better in other words. In many ways the Christian Church has not lived up to this calling - but nevertheless, in a country like Britain, the positive legacy of Jesus’s followers is everywhere. For example....
- The abolition of slavery, motivated by William Wilberforce and his colleagues;
- Lord Shaftesbury, protecting children from forced labour, reforming unjust laws and helping found the RSPCA last century;
- The work of Doctor Barnardo and the Salvation Army with needy children and adults;
- The Church health schemes and schools that became the core of our modern NHS and education systems;
- And in recent times, the Jubilee 2000 campaign for cancelling the debt of developing countries (now continued by the Jubilee Debt Campaign), and thousands of other organisations and individuals working here and abroad to make a real difference to the world.