Friends
I was a bit stumped for ideas this week, but on looking back at last year to see if there was inspiration to be had, I discovered that we had been talking about Jonah and that I had reflected on coming out of lockdown being somewhat akin to coming out of the belly of the whale and wondered what it might look like for us as Christians, what distinctiveness we might bring to a post-covid world. A year later, we are as a country having another stab at the same question and some wag has posted “2022 – 2020’s third attempt to actually happen” on my social media.

It’s tempting, in the face of apparent governmental disregard for rules, horrific stories of child abuse, threat of war in Ukraine and a steady rise in knife crime to think that what we bring that is distinctive is an ethic – a Christian morality that speaks against such things. However, it is not exclusively the domain of Christians to speak out or act against immorality, illegality and social breakdown, and the belief of the secular world that this is what exercises us is in itself part of why we are not perhaps as genuinely popular as one might imagine a faith built on the premise that “We love, because God first loved us” might be. God loves people and so we love people may be our strapline, but the world tends to see it as “God judges people and so Christians judge people and we don’t want any of that.”

The ethic-based, Christian morality model is not in and of itself a bad thing, but it is a temple model, based on the law and not on Christ. Christ after all tells us that we are going to fail, that we are imperfect beings in an imperfect world. In the face of the temple model, with its rules and regulations, Christ offered to wash his disciples’ feet, to walk with the most marginalised in society and to promise love and forgiveness for all who sought it from God, through him, strengthened by the coming of the Holy Spirit. Our call as we try once more to leave the belly of the whale and speak truth to Ninevah is perhaps not to point out all that is bad in society – after all, most can see it for themselves – but instead to underline that which is good: to tell the stories of those who have sought to help, who have found new purpose, who have loved in the face of adversity and brought hope to those who feared they had none.

God bless
Vicci

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