Vicar's Letter February 2018

 

FEBRUARY 2018

Dear Friends,

CHRISTIAN LIFE

How should a Christian behave?  Not a difficult question! We should love God and our neighbour.  In other words we should be prepared to act in the  way that we believe pleases God, and be prepared always to think of others as much as ourselves.  So, as I marry a couple, I insist to them that “No one should enter into it (marriage) lightly or selfishly but reverently and responsibly in the sight of almighty God.”  Going into a marriage thinking only of what you can get out of it is likely to be the way to the divorce court.  In the same way, living life thinking only of what you can get out of it is not the way to happiness, but a sure way to hell.  We need to be asking all the time, what effect are we having on other people. We need to acknowledge the good that they do, to take note of their views and beliefs rather than just of ours, and we need to be prepared to put others first.

POLITICS

How do politicians behave?  All generalisations are false, as you know, but we will not find it difficult to answer that question either.  Many calculate their behaviour according to the effect it will have on their career, directly or indirectly. So rather than asking what will please God, there may be a tendency to ask, what will please the party or what will please the electorate.  The question is no longer, 'what is the loving thing to do to or with this particular group of people?' it becomes, 'how can our society best profit from this group?' or, worse, 'how can I enrich myself in my dealings with this group.'  Attitudes towards other people are similarly impoverished in much of the political world.  It is not a real debate when participants are just throwing tired, old, incomplete arguments at each other, or simply resorting to insults. Behaviour in the world of politics can be a long way from what we would call Christian behaviour. I am certainly not saying that politicians cannot be Christians (we can find good examples in Stonehouse), but I do say, there are many politicians who behave in an un-Christian way, whether or not they claim to profess the Christian faith.

 

WHY?

Why is it that people who would claim to value Christian principles behave in that way?  That question challenges us.  It is too easy to blame the politicians for not caring, for being selfish, for not engaging in proper debate.  The reason they do these things is because that's what gets them elected.  Much of the population of the United states responded eagerly to the Trump slogan “America first” even if they hesitated about other parts of his campaign.  Can you imagine a party succeeding in the polls with a slogan that says “The United Kingdom for the good of the world, not for itself”?  or “The UK serving the nations, not being served by them”?  Picture the popular derision that would be afforded to an aspiring leader who says that pressing the nuclear button might be un-Christian, or who says that our (relatively rich) nation should contribute still more to rebuilding another country which has, perhaps in the recent past, been our enemy.  Selfishness is not confined to politicians, it poisons our whole society. And you and I need to be aware of our part in that poison.

OUR CONTRIBUTION

When we have acknowledged our part in the problem, we begin to be able to play our part in the solution. The Church, as an organisation, has too often been as bad as any other at behaving selfishly, with rivalry between denominations and even parishes, spilling, sometimes, into outright conflict. I hope we can do better locally nowadays!  And that involves our approach to the Team of which we are a part, and to our neighbouring churches in Stonehouse, with whom we are called to cooperate in building the kingdom of God here.  If we can do that well, we begin to set an example of how our whole society ought to behave.  In other words, rather than just preaching that we should love God and our neighbour, let's just do it!  Make the most of every opportunity to get to know one another and the community in which we live.  And in God's strength, not in our own, let's learn to love, to understand, and to serve.

Charles Minchin