Looking back to the days of my conversion, I think I was probably quite an angry and somewhat arrogantly cerebral evangelical. If people, the lost, could not see the relevance of Jesus as the answer it was, of course, because they were asking all the wrong questions.
Well, I have changed over the years. It may be there are indeed a whole batch of questions that a lost person cannot begin to ask until the grace of God enables that asking to happen. As believers we can arrogantly wait for people around us to come on to what we consider the right wavelength or we can humble ourselves and care about the questions, the worries, the fears, the vulnerabilities with which precious men and women made by God are struggling. That is where mission rooted in the love of Christ could find fresh beginnings.
Sometimes, from within a church scene in Scotland that is becoming more and more middle class as a whole, I wonder if we are really aware of where many of our fellow Scots are actually living their lives? I am thinking particularly of the number of people in Scotland who fight a daily battle with the long term causes and the diverse effects of poverty.
Here I am in the doctor’s surgery. There is a woman standing talking to the receptionist who is handing her forms of one type or another explaining, in a very kind manner, how to fill them in. (“Father, bless that receptionist!”) The woman is just beyond her middle years and has two walking sticks. She has on leggings that are ripped. She is wearing slippers with holes on a day when it has been snowing. In sub zero temperatures she has no coat. I cannot help but overhear the conversation. She has just moved out of a house full of rot and damp. In her new rented house she has no cooker, no fridge. There has been a family fall out, so she has had to leave with no pots, no dishes, no bed. She simply says, “I have nothing.” She says it again, “I have nothing, I just have nothing…”
I am thinking of where we now live in West Lothian. Within a few minutes walking distance there will be houses wihout heating, children who are not clothed adequately, who will probably go to bed tonight hungry. In Edinburgh, our manse was in Colinton, one of the most upmarket areas of Edinburgh, but a few minutes walk away was Wester Hailes. There were many people in that community who tried hard and managed well, but the overall sense of struggle was never absent.
Perhaps you live in “a desireable area,” as Estate Agents would say. Don’t let this blog makeyou feel bad about that. It is something to thank God for, if, to use the words of the Psalmist, “the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.” Be thankful, if that is the case. It is true however that in the vicinity, not far way from where you may be reading this blog, the realites that I have described above exist.
Sometimes, I find the inequalities, the injustices of life too hard to think about. I think about it more and more the older I get, and yet paradoxically I can only bear to think about it for shorter units of time as the years pass. If you don’t experience the same paradox in yourself from time to time, wherever you happen to live, I wonder if you have ever lived in the vicinity of God at all.
Don’t know where this blog goes from here…. for you or for me.