The Essendon / Andrew Thorburn controversy this week should be raising a few issues for Christians to consider.
The first issue is our understanding of the society and culture we are a part of. I have heard quite a lot of Christians make the claim over many years that we live in a Christian country (or Christian nation). I haven’t been a fan of this (mostly, but not exclusively) because it is patently untrue. While most Australians (according to the census figures) have put themselves in the ‘Christian’ category, it is blindingly obvious that most Australians don’t actually know anything about Jesus the Christ, which makes it hard to accept their self-categorisation as ‘Christian’.
The removal of Andrew Thorburn from his role as CEO of Essendon football club on the grounds that his participation in a church with traditional positions on sex and abortion was incompatible with his participation in a football club should remove any doubt from people about whether Australia is a Christian country. Make no mistake – even though he resigned it was a removal. He was given the choice of resigning from his role at his church and repudiating its Biblical teaching, or resigning from his role at Essendon. The largest and most influential social connector in Australia – football – is being applauded everywhere for saying that people who are Christian are not welcome unless they repudiate Biblical teaching.
You can get mad or upset about this. You can be upset about the hypocrisy of it being illegal to discriminate on the basis of religion, and yet religion being the reason given why someone is unsuitable for a non-religious job. You can want to see this case tested in the courts, and see stronger protections for religious practice enshrined in law. But you can’t seriously make the case that Australia is a Christian country.
Australia is, in its news and social media, its institutions, and its politics, hostile towards those who follow Jesus. This is the type of society we live in.
The second issue Christians need to consider is what Jesus is worth.
This is the more important issue.
What is Jesus worth to you? Is he worth your job? Your livelihood? The career you have been working on? The profession you love? What is following Jesus worth? Because following Jesus is going to cost you!
In Matthew 10:22, Jesus said “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
In John 15:18-19, Jesus said “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”
Matthew 16:24-25 – “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”
For most of us, this has been a fairly abstract concept. Sure, you might get teased a bit for being a Christian or going to church. You might not be allowed to discuss religion at work. You might be put in some uncomfortable situations and pressured to conform to certain social stances and support certain social causes. But it wasn’t really likely to cost most Christians anything.
But now, with a major AFL club stating that being part of a Church is incompatible with being a part of their organisation, and it being applauded by most of the media, all Christians should be aware that they might be put in the same situation.
A member of a church? Will you repudiate and reject its teaching in order to work for this community organisation? For that business? To be a volunteer in your local school community, or on your local school board? To gain accreditation with your professional body?
Are you willing to give up your career to follow Jesus? What is Jesus worth to you?
This is where we need to remember who Jesus is and what he promises. The forgiveness of sins. New life. Peace with God. A place with God in the new heavens and new earth. The promise to right all wrongs and to wipe away all tears. No more pain, no more fear, no more worry.
Jesus did say that if we follow him, it will cost us something in this life. But it will be something that was always going to pass away, to rust, to be stolen, to be lost. But if we trust him, and remain faithful to him, he will give us something that will never fail and never fade.
What is that worth to you? Everything? Or do you draw the line somewhere – job, house, career, profession, or somewhere else?
Because it should be apparent to all Christians now – we all have to weigh up what Jesus is worth to us.