I am always interested to hear what Christians quote as their favourite Bible verse. I have observed that most people quote verses that comfort them and they are often related to God being a source of strength during difficult circumstances. There is nothing wrong with that as such and like everyone else I have my favourite comfort blanket texts that I pull out when I am feeling a bit vulnerable.
Yet something niggles at me a bit about this because even people who do not profess to be born again often quote those same verses,for example, "The Lord is my Shepherd" or the love chapter from 1 Corinthians. I recently asked a Salvationist why they loved Jesus and their reply was that it was because he was always there for them. That is true but so is the NHS when we are sick and 24 hour Tesco's when we need a pint of milk! Do we not love Jesus for more than the fact that he is a reliable friend to whom we can off load our worries and whom we hope will solve our problems?
Sometimes whilst we're having ourselves a merry little Christmas, celebrating what a nice person Jesus is to have around, I worry that the relationship many people in the Church have with Jesus seems to by pass the whole point of the incarnation. How can we forget the fact that Jesus saved us from hell by going through hell for us?
Paul never did. Years after his conversion, his salvation was still at the forefront of his mind. He still couldn't get over the fact that the grace of the Lord was "poured out on me abundantly" If he had a favourite saying I wonder if it was this, "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst."
(1 Timothy 1:15)
And whilst I am in full flow, it also concerns me that the favourite verses often quoted are those that help us feel safe and secure rather than ones which express our aspirations after holiness or the ones which urge us towards fulfilling our divine calling to reach the lost. I haven't heard many people say their favourite verse is "I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus." (Ph 1:14) or "Therefore since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves with the same attitude." (1 Pet 4:1)
I am sure that I am over stating my case but this is a plea to leave behind sentimentality. There is plenty that is sentimental about Christmas, there is nothing at all sentimental about the incarnation. Jesus did not come so we could quote gooey verses about him. He came into the world to save sinners and make them holy.