There’s been a discussing in the letters page of Metro this week that’s grown out of a story about hymen repair operations being carried out on the NHS.
There was a lot of initial consternation that the NHS had been funding such surgery for Muslims to make sure they weren’t exposed as non-virgins on their wedding nights. Someone wrote in to say that it wasn’t just Islam that required such a situation on a wedding night but Christians and Jews did too.
A couple of days of additional comment about the rights and wrongs of those of faith having this attitude was followed up by a story from a London borough about schools that had decided all meat should be halal because in that part of the city the majority of children were Muslims.
I’m not sure what it is about the Mail Group but they do seem intent on building those barriers between different parts of our nation. The outrage about virgin restoration was small compared to the vitriol that appeared over the next couple of days about how Christians were being subjected to non-Christian meat. The classic ‘political correctness gone mad’ stuff that is the bread and butter of the letters page.
Yesterday someone wrote in, self-identified as a Christian, and then asked something along the lines of ‘in a Muslim country if I were in the minority, would the majority respect me?’.
Both the guy who suggested Christians require virginity on the wedding night and the lady who intimated that it was a waste of time because we wouldn’t be afforded the same treatment have missed something special that is at the heart of our faith.
Grace isn’t about reciprocity. It isn’t about doing something for someone because of what you get back. It isn’t about earning the reward your behaviour deserves.
What it’s about is unconditionality. About recognising people as individuals and loving them for who they are, as they are.
That’s the story of the Bible – God desperately seeking relationship with his people, a people who come in all shapes and sizes and with all manner of histories.
The story of the Bible is not God requiring particular behaviours, or a particular standard of behaviour before loving and honouring and delighting.
So, for the non-Christian who said we require virginity on our wedding nights I’d say this. It’s true that we believe sex is valuable, special and should flow out of loving relationships but the idea that Jesus ‘requires’ wedding night virginity out of us is a misconception. God requires us to love mercy, act justly and walk humbly. That’s not about forcing people to cover up their past but valuing them for who they are today and tomorrow.
And the Christian who thought we should only treat people as they’d treat us I’d say that’s only slightly right. Treat other people as God would treat them. And he’d treat them with value, and love, and honour, and he’d do it with gladness immediately, not begrudgingly after seeing some proof.