Can you imagine if Jesus had stayed in Nazareth?
He probably would have gotten married, had a few kids, taught Sunday school, and generally lived a low-key though respectable life as a competent carpenter. Every now and then, he’d think about what might have been if he’d left Nazareth and done what God had urged him to do, but then he’d push those thoughts aside. He’d made a decision, made a commitment to the life he chose, and that was that.
Jesus could have lived like this. Any number of people who love God do actually live like this – quiet, respectable lives, going about their daily business and raising families. Nothing wrong with that.
Or is there?
Mainstream churchianity frames that kind of life as desirable, even though Jesus and Paul advise us not to marry. It stands to reason that mainstream churchianity doesn’t want people being celibate and single and going out into the world and preaching the Good News, as it would conflict with their own Sunday business, which would mean lost revenue. Having big families and staying put in one “church” is good for Sunday business. Never mind that it directly conflicts with what Jesus tells us we should do. Never mind what scripture says.
For the first three and a half years after I was born again, when I was still very young spiritually, I attended Catholic mass every day. But not once in all the hundreds of sermons I sat through, did a priest ever tell me to go out into the world and preach the Good News. The very foundation and basis for being a Christian – in fact, our greatest responsibility and the one task that God expects us to perform to the best of our ability – was completely absent from those daily Catholic pep talks.
But there was lots of talk about giving charitable donations, lots of emphasis on that. No matter what the subject, it always took a U-turn about three-quarters of the way through and ended up completely focused on the importance of giving money. These pep talks always directly preceded the passing of the hat, so a rousing finale that prompted people to fork out more than they were planning to was clearly the aim. Priests are taught to write sermons that way. It’s part of their training. Ministers of all denominations are taught to do the same thing. It’s shameful and pathetic and everything that Jesus despised, but there it is, and many people fall for it. They’re essentially guilted and pressured into giving and even told that it’s what God wants them to do.
But here’s the thing – God wants people to give, but freely, of their own free will, not out of guilt or pressure. Just as he wants each and every one of us to go out into the world and preach the Good News, but freely, of our own free will, not out of guilt or pressure. There is no greater pleasure in life than to hang with God and do his will freely. In fact, freely doing God’s will is the only type of freedom that leads to happiness and peace because we’re hard-wired to do God’s will. Doing God’s will feels like home.
Jesus could have stayed in Nazareth – he had free will, so he could have said no to God’s advice. But it would have been a huge mistake that he would have regretted for the rest of his life.
And we’d never have known about him.
I can’t imagine not knowing Jesus. Sure glad he got off his duff when he did.
As my grandmother used to say: “Better late than never.” If you’ve been dragging your heels and spinning your wheels in your own personal Nazareth, now’s the time to get going. Jesus left with little more than the clothes on his back and a wave good-bye. That’s all that’s really needed. Put yourself out there with a willing heart, and God will provide all the rest.