“Want to come to church with me?” I offered.
“Why would I want to come and listen to some bloke telling me off?” was the response.
Schoolday memories include times when the whole class got told off, because the teacher didn’t know for sure which pupil was responsible for some incident or because a number of pupils were committing the same fault and it seemed simpler to address everyone at once.
The trouble was, the tirade usually slid off the long-term offenders. They would shrug, giggle, build up resentment or assume the teacher had a bad temper, while the children who rarely put a foot wrong would quiver with anxiety and guilt by proxy.
It’s interesting that being ticked off now has two meanings – the traditional one, based on the army practice of marking a box on a conduct sheet, of being reprimanded, and the contemporary meaning of being annoyed or pissed off.
Being ticked off never changed anyone’s motives, though it may have led to some cover-ups. So it’s disheartening that some churches, supposed to convey Jesus’ invitation, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and overburdened,” can come across as, “Come and be ticked off, you who are already pretty ticked off.”
The second part of Jesus’ promise: “And I will give you rest. Learn from me – gentle and humble-hearted – and you’ll find rest for your soul,” doesn’t always get heard as the ticked off souls rush for the exit.
And so we miss out on the good part.