If you’re anything like me, it’s not hard to recall memories of a dusty, weird-smelling hall known as Sunday school. When we were there we heard stories about heroes of the faith. But now we’re all grown up – something I’m yet to believe – we have to deal with work, stress, temptations, heartbreak and frustration that these perfect Sunday School heroes seemingly don’t relate to.
It’s all very well being reminded of the faith David showed in taking on Goliath or the courage Daniel had in continuing to pray while staring at the grinning face of a pride of lions. But what about when we feel like we have no faith left? What about when our courage fails us? Our Sunday School heroes just serve to highlight our inadequacies. Who can we turn to for inspiration?
Fortunately the Bible is full of other stories they don’t teach in Sunday School; stories of God still using everyday screw-ups like us who aren’t perfect but who struggled with temptations, who dabbled with sin, who wrestled with doubts and flaws.
In chapters 12 and 20 of Genesis we have Abraham. Any Sunday School worth its salt sang that one. How ‘right arm, left arm’ ties in to the Bible, I’m not sure, but man, it was fun. That same old Father Abraham with his many sons passed TWICE passed his wife off as his sister trick his would-be murderers into keeping them both alive. Both times God isn’t happy; He sends a plague the first time and a threat of death the second.
The Bible doesn’t record Sarah’s response but it’s likely she wasn’t rushing to get him an extra special Valentines gift after Abraham twice professed his undying love by saying she was ‘just’ his sister.
There’s a need to learn from our mistakes and not keep making them. We need to trust God rather than trying to manipulate circumstances to try and engineer what we think is best. But there is hope that even though we’re prone to keep stumbling over the same things, God doesn’t give up on us.
Sunday School lessons like to focus on Elijah absolutely owning the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. But the lesson stops there. The bit that comes next, in 1 Kings 19:4 where Elijah gets suicidal after the contest on Mount Carmel, that never gets taught in Sunday School. Yet depression is a real issue that affects many of us and we need to take it seriously. And thankfully the church is starting to get on board with. When we feel hopeless God still has a long journey planned for us.
These are just a couple examples of some of the more well-known Sunday School heroes whose stories are censored and filtered. As we read through the Bible we discover, that we’re in good company; everyday screw ups who see God at work and then promptly mess up again. We’re filled with hope as we relinquish our quest for that unattainably tidy Sunday School faith and instead recognise that God loves giving second, third, fourth, fifth chances to the eclectic collection of sinners, doubters and stumblers who have tried to follow Him.
Keep an eye on this series, we’ll be adding to it regularly.