People throughout history have always wanted to shut up other people who say things they do not like or do not agree with. I guess it is a human thing! We’ve probably all had times where we wish we could silence someone else – from an annoying family member, a loud-mouth at a party (remember them?), through to someone spouting something on TV!
Sometimes people have the idea that Christianity stands out as an example of a belief system that tries to shut people up who don’t agree with it. And although sadly there have been quite a lot of examples of that among Christians, both past and present, its fair to say that that is not so much a characteristic of Christianity, so much as it is just humans doing their thing.
For example, no-one would seriously think that our culture today is a Christian one. Yet silencing of people who don’t say what they are supposed to is alive and well. This is not a Christian problem, it’s a human one.
And surpising for many is the fact that the Bible itself is open to the airing of opposing ideas. The best example in the Bible itself is the book of Ecclesiastes. This book is a cry of someone who is looking at life and saying “It looks pointless, empty and meaningless.” (see lots of places in the book, but you can see some examples here, here and here.) The word “meaningless” or in older English translations “vanity” is a word that is constantly repeated.
Of course, you don’t need to know much about Christianity to know that its message is that there IS meaning to life, life is NOT pointless.
But often of course, that is what it looks like. And the Bible, and therefore God who breathed it out to us, is not afraid to include these desperate cries of human beings who cannot make sense of their existence. The voice that sounds so “off message” is not silenced, but is given voice even within the pages of God’s word.
There are a number of reasons for that. Perhaps a couple of important ones: Firstly, when you have the truth, you are not afraid of voices that are raised against it. You know that the truth will prevail. You know that the voices raised against it can be reassured or countered by the truth. It is a sign of weakness in any belief system if it has to silence and shut up other voices which are raised against it. It means that you do not really think your beliefs and ideas are robust enough to stand someone saying the opposite. You are deep down afraid that there is no proper answer. But true Christianity is not like that.
But the second reason, more important still, is that Christianity has a clear and wonderful answer. Ecclesiastes and its desperate cry is heard by God, and his answer is to send his Son Jesus into the world. Every cry of despair in Ecclesiastes is a cry which is answered in this man, who was like no other. A human like us, but a human completely unlike us at the same time.
Our recent preaching series at church has been looking at Ecclesiastes, and it is remarkable how Jesus so wonderfully answers the cries of desperation found within Ecclesiastes – the cries very often of our own experience.
Perhaps we are better able to understand and see the richness and depth of what God has done for us in Jesus because we have see the desperation of life without the understanding he gives. Perhaps when we stand with Ecclesiastes in the darkness, we get a better appreciation of the one who declared “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).
Why not join us as we continue to look at this intriguing Bible book together? You can do that by coming to church on Sunday mornings in person, watching the livestream, or if you want to catch up with what we have done on previous weeks, you can watch past livestreams on youtube, or listen to the talks on the website here.
We do hope that you too will find true light in the darkness.