I am not political in the narrow or bigoted sense, but I do have thoughts about things that would be deemed political especially when they impinge on areas of morality or justice. I heard a snatch of an interview about BHS shutting down on the radio today. It is as well I did not know who was speaking as the views of one of them were quite idiotic. He seemed to be to the right of Genghis Khan in the way he talked about people. He seemed to say that BHS was a shop for poorer people and that these customers had caused the collapse of the stores because irritatingly they could not make up their mind to buy stuff! Ah well, it is amazing how the lights can be on but there is no one in!
I should say that that person whoever he was consistently wanted to blame BHS customers for the difficulty partly to deflect attention away from the central core of the conversation which was around the question of should the former owner of BHS be held responsible for doing something about the collapse to help the thousands who will lose their jobs and thousands more who will not now get the pension they have been paying in to for decades in this private company. Sir Philip Green has made over 1000 million pounds from BHS in other words more than a billion pounds. He has just paid his family a dividend of over 400 million pounds. He stands to make another 35 million pounds or thereabouts from the collapse of BHS! He could plug the 500 million pound hole in the pension fund twice over and have quite a few tens of million left out of what he has made from BHS alone, leaving aside other very successful businesses.
The thing is, Sir Philip has done nothing wrong legally, absolutely nothing. But if he chooses to do nothing to help the thousands plunged into the misery of financial want and unemployment, is that moral? Please know I am not judging the man, that is not my place. It is simply this is a live issue and throws up a common modern day dilemma.”I have done nothing wrong” seems to be a phrase that we hear often in the news these days from prominent figures, and is presumably meant to be the end of a matter.
Since the collapse of communism and many socialist parties selling out their principles we are basically left with capitalism of one hue or another as “the way the world works,” certainly in Britain. Capitalism can be legal and immoral at the same time. Of course at its best it can be both legal and moral but there is absolutely nothing requiring it to do anything more than “doing nothing wrong!” It is not required to model grace which is way more generous than law.
I guess I feel concerned that Christians and Christian churches can fall into the “doing nothing wrong” frame of mind as being a sufficiently Christian goal. The old formal prayers in which we ask God for forgiveness not only for the wrong we have done but for the good we have not done which always made me yawn in church when I was younger, though sounding a bit dreary and monotonous are good prayers and bang up to date after all! The parable of the labourers in the vineyard makes it clear that going by the letter of a legal contract and no more is not as high as we should be aspiring. It may be the logic of earth, but it is not the logic of heaven. (See Matthew 20 verses 1 – 16.)
I suppose I am saying that the thing about truly living in the grace of God is that one of its fruits is generosity in the way we offer our lives to the life of the world. It really is about going the second mile that no law can demand. It is seeing that though no law can command me to care as though I were my brother or sister’s keeper, God cares and wants me to care as well. How boring and stilted friendships, relationships, marriages would be if the goal was to do nothing wrong! So often in pastoring “fall outs” in my years as a parish minister, my heart used to sink like a stone as someone passionately exclaimed, “But I have done nothing wrong!”
The elder brother in the story of the Prodigal Son kept all the laws of house and home and family, but he had a mean spirit. The Pharisees were particularly angry that Jesus seemed to portray in word and deed and miracle a God who was too generous for their liking, who opened the door at street level into His family and Kingdom.
May God help us to go further than being mean spirited believers who never do anything wrong. That is not only wrong towards others but extremely boring! I remember reading the true story of a tribal chief listening to a Christian missionary. After listening he then asked with sadness, “So if I follow your God, I cannot lie in wait for my enemy and ambush him and kill him; I cannot steal his wife and his property? But I am too old to do these things now. To be old and to be a Christian, they are the same thing, yes?”
I am not condoning the pleasures of sin. Nor am I saying, in quoting that story, that I am agreeing with the chief that to be old is to be boring! However I am saying please don’t be a Christian who lives only in the realm of obeying the “thou shalt nots!” That will not only make you mean but give you a Christianity that will eventually bore you as much as it will put others off wanting to have anything to do with Christ. God save His people from being legal but mean and boring! May God fill us with His generous love and life that cannot be happy doing nothing wrong but rejoices in the right and in doing the right. That is part of the outworking of God’s love in and through us. It is much more fun to throw yourself into a wave than to paddle. Be more dog! Fling yourself in! Dogs don’t stop to think that if they fly into a wave they might swallow a bit of salt water, or that they will have to get their paws dried and their coat will get wet and they will probably have to get a bath when they get home and might not be allowed on the sofa until they are dry again! Keep nothing back! Abandon yourself to the love of God. Jump right in! In fact maybe some of you should literally go and jump into the waves of the sea as a prophetic sign of intent. I couldn’t quite hold back all notes of quirkiness, despite what I said the end of my last blog….
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