Scarcely has The Lord’s Prayer had more coverage. The furore began over the weekend when certain cinema chains decided they wouldn’t show a TV ad containing the prayer for fear it would cause offence. Cue the inevitable avalanche of tweets, blogs, articles and comments, of which I am now adding to the kindling.
What’s surprised me most is how many people are adamant the prayer should offend – owing to its exclusivity, admission that we are fallen and spiritually bankrupt, and its express will that God’s kingdom be established above all others. ‘If that’s not offensive, you don’t understand the prayer,’ cry many.
I must be careful what I write next, given that everything I’ve read is penned by people with larger brains than mine, but while I admit it’s possible to be offended by the prayer, that wasn’t Jesus’ intention when he taught it to his disciples (they certainly weren’t offended by it). The most remarkable thing about The Lord’s Prayer is surely that we’re able to address God as ‘Father’; the intimacy with, and proximity to, the Divine was a revolutionary thought 2,000 years ago. The whole idea we could ask God for provision or forgiveness or anything else for that matter – and expect Him to respond as a loving father might – was positively mind-blowing.
If the Queen came to visit my home next week, I wouldn’t be offended if she demanded the finest venison I could find, a chauffer-driven trip to the Palace, or the entire contents of my wallet. I’d simply be honoured she knocked at my front door. Whether I believe the whole Christianity thing or not, the very idea the Creator of the Universe would take interest in me to such an extent that I could call him ‘Dad’ should say a lot about my intrinsic worth more than it should rile my sensibilities. That’s what we celebrate during the imminent Advent season – that God would humble himself to get actively involved in humanity to make us His children and offer something infinitely better than the very best of money, pleasure and power.
Certainly the Lord’s Prayer and the Christian faith might offend some – it certainly challenges all of our worldviews – but let’s not forget it’s inherently good news. If we major on ‘offence’ and ‘offending people’, perhaps we’re in danger of being imbalanced at best, worse still misrepresenting the Christian faith. Worst of all we’ll end up leaving out the best bits – that if it’s true, then the God of all creation wants us to approach him as a Father for provision, forgiveness and protection, that even when we mess-up we can freely approach God in prayer, and that whoever we are and whatever we’ve done, we are deeply, deeply loved. That’s the kind of message I think everyone should be reminded of before Star Wars.