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I enjoy the writings of Adrian Plass. He’s an English Christian comedian/writer who pokes gentle fun at the silly things we Christians do, while reminding us of what’s really important.

I just picked up his book Cabbages for the King and opened it on a random page. It’s not so much funny as freaky. Not so much a laugh-raiser as a thought-stopper.

Adrian has just delivered a talk to a church about showing the sort of love the father showed the Prodigal son. Afterwards, in a conversation…

“It was as I lingered in conversation with a small group of elderly people at the back that I realised how miserably I had failed to convey my main point, at least as far as one person was concerned.

Her name was Beth, and she was one of those white-haired, attractive, eighty-year olds whose eyes are deeply crinkled from years of smiling. As I sat with Beth and two of her contemporaries someone mentioned outreach.

“I’ve always admired the old Sally Army,” said the venerable gentleman on Beth’s right, “the way they go into pubs and that with their papers. Maybe we should get to know people in the locals – then we could talk to them, couldn’t we?”

“Not me,” said Beth, the crinkles disappearing as she sat up a little straighter in her chair, “I would never do that!”

I looked at her for a moment.

“Suppose,” I said, “that Jesus were to come through that back door now – today – and say “Beth, I want you to come down to the King’s Head with me.” Would you go?”

“I would not”, replied Beth, compressing her lips and folding her hands together decisively in her lap.

“But, Beth,” I persisted, “we’re talking about Jesus, the son of God, asking you personally if you would go with him. Would you not go?”

“I have never set foot in a public house in my life,” said the old lady adamantly, “and I’m not about to start now.”

“But if Jesus himself asked –“

“It’s a good witness,” interrupted Beth, “alcohol has never passed my lips and it never will”

“Okay,” I said, warming to my theme, “he doesn’t want you to drink anything intoxicating, he just wants you with him in the King’s Head, and –“

Beth shook her head firmly: “No!”

“Jesus, God himself, the creator of everything, the reason why we’re all here today – he comes in and he says, “Beth, I really need you to come to the pub with me today, so please, please make an exception, just for me.” Would you go with him?”

A tiny crack of uncertainty was undermining Beth’s wall of principle. Her brows creased and her fingers twisted together as she mentally surveyed this rather unlikely scenario.

“I suppose,” She said at last, “if he really did have a really, really good reason for asking, I might go.”

Afterwards, as I travelled home, I thought about Beth and the way in which her principles seemed to be a more powerful motivating force than the relationship she had with Jesus. I realised that my own sticking points were often more personal than spiritual. Was I so aware of the love of God that I would follow him wherever he went? Or would I, like the rich young man in the Bible, go away sorrowing because there was some principle or issue or sin or religious habit concerning which I simply would not budge?

The alarming truth is that these “blocks” may well turn out to be respectable, laudable, even spiritual convictions or practises that have been elevated to the position of false gods.”

I thought that was amazing. Or Freaky. Or Scary. Imagine saying “no” to Jesus Christ Himself…

I am challenged.