Thursday, 26 April 2018


When James Bond sets off to save the world, he usually does it on his own. There is a romantic appeal in a lone hero overcoming the complex forces of evil singlehanded. In the real world, however, there is only so much that a solitary person can achieve on their own.
In the familiar iconography of Christianity, Jesus is usually presented as a lone figure. Artists put a distance between him and any people around him; they dress him in contrasting clothes which exaggerate his separateness. The Jesus of popular culture is an isolated figure, saving the world singlehandedly - like James Bond does (but without the gun fights or miraculous gadgets supplied by Q Branch).
This solitary image of Jesus is inaccurate. All four Gospels inform us that the first thing he did when he began his ministry was to assemble a team. Three years later, they tell us - in some detail - how the very last thing Jesus did before being handed over to death, was to get that same team together for a big supper. At that supper Jesus emphasised the importance of teamwork, urging his team to continue to work together. “If you love one another, then people will know that you are my disciples.”
Jesus’ clear decision of working with a team was closely copied by those who carried on his work. When Paul split off from team-Barnabas, he quickly assembled team-Paul - first picking Silas, then Timothy and then Luke. Paul, who is also portrayed as something of a loner, was as much a team player as Jesus.
Twenty centuries later our image of Jesus and Paul as solitary operators misdirects our expectations of church life. It is quite common for people to arrive at church, worship, and leave, without particularly engaging with any of the people around them. This is not the way of doing things that Jesus gave us.
If we are to have any chance of saving the world, we are going to need to teamwork.

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