I remember being on the ghost train at Barry’s, sitting beside my mum and crying my eyes out. I was terrified. I probably didn’t know what I was letting myself in for but here I was, clinging to my mum, tears running down my face and wishing it would end.
23 years old I was. I will never forget that summer holiday.
Although I was actually a lot younger the truth is I’ve never been a fan of fairground rides. I always have been scared. That was until 4 years ago while visiting my then girlfriend (now my wife) we went to Cedar Point in Ohio. Cedar Point is basically a rollercoaster fan’s idea of heaven. Rollercoaster after rollercoaster were waiting for me.
We started on the tallest one there. And… it was amazing. I had never felt so excited about anything in my life until that point. I spent the next 8 hours riding all the rollercoasters I could get to.
But on the drive home something weird happened. I was so shattered and started to fall asleep. In that light sleep where you are kind of dreaming but also awake I started to imagine I was on a rollercoaster. For 8 hours I was constantly up and down and now every so often I bolted upright thinking I was still on one. So accustomed was I to the exhilaration that the feelings still lingered with me, long after I had stepped off a ride.
Most of us will read the Sermon on the Mount and read a set of instructions for how to live. But Jesus is doing much more than that. When Jesus says not to kill he is actually saying, don’t even be angry with someone. When He says don’t commit adultery he is saying don’t even check out another woman who isn’t your wife.
There is an action but there is also a thought behind it.
You may not be on the rollercoaster but it feels just the same.
Now at first glance this may seem like Jesus is going to be a real strict dude.
But He is really going deeper than anyone had ever gone before. He’s saying it’s not good enough to just look good on the outside, what matters is really your heart. A good Jew followed the letter of the law and here was Jesus shaking the religious leaders’ preconceptions, taking their whole belief system to a new, and more life giving level.
When I look around at the Church today and I watch as sex scandals involving Church leaders unfold, as stories of abuse come to light years after they occurred, as I still don’t get that Jesus loves me sometimes, I wonder just how much we have changed.
Do we still think that keeping up appearances is enough?
Have we forgotten how radical Jesus’ teaching was?
Those are pretty extreme examples but that doesn’t matter because I know that every day I have thoughts that I shouldn’t. The point of Jesus teaching this new way of thinking was to show He was bringing about something completely radical. A new way of being fully human.
Anyone can not kill someone. Most people go through their whole lives not doing so. But someone who doesn’t hate is living on a whole new level according to Jesus. They are experiencing life to the nth + 1 degree.
But how does this make us more human?
Imagine someone who has done something wrong to you. Now think of all the time you spent thinking about what they did. The hurt they caused. The misery they put you through. Now think of all the side remarks you made to yourself and others about them. Now the hate or the doubts about that person have been passed on. The person you hate is now a little less human in someone else’s eyes too.
Sure you’re not going to kill them but you’re definitely angry.
Then think of all the energy you put into the anger that they caused. The time, the opportunities wasted because you didn’t go to that party because they would be there. The new experiences you could have had. The people you could have met. That person isn’t losing out, you are. Sometimes they may not even know what they have done.
That’s why Jesus was so particular about more than just our actions. Because our thoughts can end up being even more damaging.
The reason I was so excited when I went on my first few rollercoaster rides was because I realized there was something out there that everyone else was enjoying and I had missed out on. I wasn’t prepared to let that happen again.
I don’t want to waste anymore time not living because of lust or hate or jealousy.
And that’s why next Summer I will be at the head of the queue for the Ghost train.