In 1983, twin brothers Craig and Charlie Reid formed a band. They liked country and western music, at a time when punk rock was all the rage; they had strong Scottish accents, which critics said they should change; they were often described as geeky and gangly, definitely not cool; and they sang about socialism and Scottish independence at a time when it wasn’t fashionable. However on August 10th this year, 35 years after they first formed, they will release their 11th studio album, and amongst their many accolades is the fact that David Tennant, of Dr Who fame, chose to walk down the aisle to one of their songs. A few years ago, the brothers were asked why they chose the name they did for their band. Craig answered, “We always wanted a strong name. We wanted something with a gospel feel to it; that indicated strength in the vocal delivery, a sort of spiritual element.” Craig and Charlie Reid are The Proclaimers.
Our third podcast of this week moves into the book of 1 John, starting with Chapter 1 v 1-4. As you listen to or read these verses, it is clear that John is something of a Proclaimer himself! He uses the word ‘proclaim’ 3 times in 4 verses. Just as Craig Reid talked about “strength in the vocal delivery,” so we get that same sense in what John is writing. The first verse alone carries a strength of feeling and passion that is hard to ignore.
On Monday, we learnt that the word ‘proclaim’ means “to cry out,” and in verse 1 we see John crying out to those he is writing to; urging them to really believe that Jesus is God’s word, God’s message, God on Earth. The strength in John’s voice is clear as he writes that he has heard Jesus for himself, seen him with his own eyes, and touched his physical body with his own hands. And he says, “I proclaim this, I proclaim this, I proclaim this to you.” Then in verse 4 John explains that the reason for his proclamation is so that people may experience joy.
But why does John start in this way?
Why does he feel the need to proclaim so strongly and so powerfully that Jesus is God’s message to the earth?
The answer is that at the end of the first century, a crisis had arisen in the churches that John had responsibility for. Although these are not named in this letter, most scholars agree that John was writing to a number of churches in the region of Ephesus. In this area, a group of false teachers were promoting a brand of Christianity that did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God, and denied that he had come to earth in human form. They also did not accept the importance of any commands given by Jesus. Indeed these false teachers could not really be called Christians at all.
And so it is into this context that 1 John is written. Back in the 1st century, John could have chosen to say nothing, or could have allowed these teachers to influence his own ideas and actions. He could have listened to the critics who said his beliefs should change, he could have been silenced because believing Jesus was the Son of God was not really all the rage, he could have shied away from following the commandments of Jesus because that wasn’t fashionable or cool. But he didn’t.
John was a proclaimer.
John wanted those reading this letter to build their lives and their faith on the gospel of Jesus Christ, not just some beliefs that had a “sort of spiritual element.” He believed this so strongly, and had found such joy in his own personal relationship with Jesus, the things he had seen and heard, that he wanted to proclaim, announce and declare this emphatically and clearly to others, so that they could experience this too.
Obviously the parallels with our own context today in the 21st century are striking.
Today we are surrounded by people who say that Jesus was not the Son of God, and that his commands and instructions about how we should live are not relevant for modern society. In this culture and this context, it can be easy to feel the pressure to change or modify our own beliefs, so that they seem less contentious or a bit more ‘fashionable.’ Maybe we feel totally silenced, unable to proclaim anything, as following Jesus and his commandments is just not cool, not really the thing to be seen to be doing.
Craig and Charlie Reid chose to call themselves ‘The Proclaimers’ because they wanted a strong name, and they believed that through their music they could share an important message to the world about their political beliefs.
And so, as we begin our journey through the book of 1 John, straight away we are confronted by a challenge or a question……
Are we proclaimers?
Do we believe so strongly and so passionately that Jesus is God’s message of hope for the world, that nothing will prevent us from sharing this with others?
Is the joy that we find in Jesus so complete, that all we can do is proclaim, announce and declare this to others, because we want them to experience this joy too?
Being a proclaimer is a good name, a strong name, to have.
So never mind walking 500 miles, why not take the first step on the road to becoming a proclaimer, and invite someone to join us on July 22nd at our special ‘Give Church a Go’ Sunday gathering?
Ask God to give you the confidence and passion to be a proclaimer today, tomorrow and for the next 35 years!
Heavenly Father, thank you that you sent Jesus – your only Son – to earth, as a man, in order that we might be able to have a real relationship with the living God. Thank-you that knowing you makes our joy complete. May this truth be so strong in our own lives, that nothing can stop us proclaiming it to others. Amen.
READING: 1 John 1: 1-4
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.