It’s hard to hold on to Jesus. Powerful things can happen if you just touch his cloak in faith. But getting a decent grip on him is quite a challenge. Let me explain.
From his first followers right down to today, we’ve all had our inclination to keep Jesus for ourselves. I mean, we might need him one day, right? But he can be elusive. Joseph and Mary thought they had possession of their teenager – they didn’t. The disciples more than once found that Jesus had slipped away and wasn’t on tap. Mark hasn’t finished his first chapter before Jesus is escaping the town of Capernaum, which was finding him quite useful. “Let us go somewhere else – to nearby villages” – there are others who need him too. All those who’ve tried to bottle (or throttle) Jesus have been in for a surprise. He’s very hard to nail down.
This is why I’m so concerned about the privatisation of our churches. If our main thing is to huddle around Jesus with our backs to the neighbourhood, operating as a private worship club for people like us and people we like, then – ironically – a meeting so carefully focused on the presence of Jesus can find itself without him, and its worship empty. When we exclude others, we exclude him.
So we would do better all round to think of Jesus as having us, rather than us having Jesus. Instead of talking about ‘inviting Jesus into our lives’ we should say that we are invited into his. If he is the host and not just guest of our gatherings, then we must invite all those he invites, welcome all whom he welcomes, include all he includes.
If the opposite of sharing Jesus is to keep him to ourselves, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing to do – I’m saying it’s an impossible thing to do. We’re either sharing him or losing him. We’re either missionaries or imposters, as Spurgeon put it. So let’s open up our lives and open up our churches. In God’s family, let’s not be the kid who’s grumpy at the prospect of new siblings – having to share a bedroom, share space at the table, share the attention of the Father. ‘Those who try to save their lives will lose them, but those who lose them for my sake and for the gospel will find them.’ So let’s share, and share, and share, and find we have more of Jesus than we started with.