Tag Archives: prayer

‘Honour the emperor’

It is easy for me to write this as a middle class, white Brit for whom oppression is not something I’ve ever directly had to put up with. My response is therefore more theoretical than what faces people who are already reporting the sorts of post-Brexit hate we had here. I hope I would always seek solidarity, not safety.

Prayer

We spent last night at Central London Vineyard in solid prayer, bothering God about the state of the world.
 
It was challenging. Challenging to reflect on our own divided country as well as the one across the Atlantic. Challenging to think that most of the world’s desperate people don’t care who’s in the White House or what the EU looks like. And very challenging to hear first hand testimony of recent events in Calais and the treatment of those unaccompanied children who had found some small refuge in the Jungle.
 
And in all of that it was challenging to respond to the words of Jesus:
‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.’
So much of what I’ve found difficult about 2016’s politics has come from the rejection and fear of ‘the other’. And yet I’ve probably responded to people with whom I have a fundamental difference of position by reflecting a similar level of antipathy (or worse) about them as people, as well as their ideology.

Challenge

On Tuesday evening our Croydon Vineyard small group were picking over the second half of 1 Peter 2. It talks about submitting to authority, even (and especially) if it oppresses you. It even includes the three words ‘honour the emperor’.
 
Reading that the other day wasn’t easy; returning to it last night after Donald Trumps’s victory was even harder. But there was something very powerful (and even hope filled) in wrestling with what it means for God to desire relationship with Donald the man, just as much as he does with me, and you.
 
When you get down to it, the ground is flat at the foot of the cross – there is no hierarchy of sin, no category of holier, no singling out as worst. Of course it offends us to think that there’s no difference between me and him but the message at the heart of what I believe is to love the person I’d not even consider worth acknowledgement, and to love them sacrificially.
 
Last night someone used a turn of phrase that stuck with me: ‘Love never changes. Love always wins. Love looks the same today as it did yesterday, and will do tomorrow’.
 
As individuals that’s an important attitude of the heart and it’s important that we live it out in our relationships with others. But in the midst of everything it’s pretty overwhelming to think about how broken the world is, how frightening particular politics are, and how little we can do by ourselves.
 
Which is why God invites us to be part of The Church so that with him, and each other, we can be a movement seeking God’s kingdom on earth – not to build a theocracy but to be united in pursuing justice and mercy with a loving humility that’s backed by our trust in God as Sovereign.

Response 

None of us know what the next few years will bring. There is plenty to fear. But fear is the currency of oppression. I’m choosing hope over fear, light over darkness, love over hate, action over apathy. But right now, I’m going back to the source and looking to God for this to be recognisable  for everyone, everywhere:
 
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

My worlds collide

When I first wrote this it was relevant but I got overtaken by other events. Still, whilst it’s old news there’s no point it staying sat in my drafts.

There is no single theme for my blog. Most of the time there’s very little overlap so maybe I should be more focused and write in different places for different content. Irrespective of that, today is a bit different.

In the aftermath of this story I’ve read a lot and heard a lot of bluster in various media. As I’m a Christian who works in local government and have family connections to church in Bideford this particular story couldn’t be more relevant. Continue reading My worlds collide

‘Stagnant and Lost’

Last week I had a week of holiday. Amongst a lot of doing very little it provided an opportunity to reflect on life ahead of Christine finishing her phd and starting work in Huddersfield at the start of May.

I effectively spend 12 hours of every weekday on the way to, or at work. And I realised that I wasn’t happy with either the commute, or my role. I was summing myself up in two words – stagnant and lost.

But on the back of this evening I’m reclaiming myself and rejecting those words.

I’ve just got home from a prayer meeting where it became apparent that God was gently mocking me. Five things neatly coincide in a way that has reset my thinking. Continue reading ‘Stagnant and Lost’

The Future’s Bleak

Yesterday I was travelling back to York after spending a couple of days in Devon.

A few minutes after the train had pulled away from the station a young guy walked past, beer can in hand, directing a conversation towards his partner making it clear that she knew he wasn’t happy about her alleged sexual indiscretions.

What this guy was saying was colourful to put it mildly and he clearly took great pride in having an audience with everyone able to hear his opinions on those most intimate parts of her body.

I was sat listening to music so was well shielded from what he was saying and I assumed that once he had sat himself down he would shut up. He didn’t. I could have turned up my music and carried on ignoring what he was saying but instead, prayerfully taking my life into my own hands, I went and asked him if he wouldn’t mind putting a lid on it.

He wasn’t keen on the idea and he was even less keen on “someone posh like you” telling him what to do. Instead he took great pride in telling me that he was a very dangerous person, asking me whether I knew who he was (unfortunately I’m no expert on the criminals of Devon) before letting me know that he dealt heroin and crack. As though that would make me either fear or respect him. It did neither. Asking where I was going, York, he said that he was off to Bristol, although to hear his description of the place you would think it to be the embodiment of Gomorrah.

Having never really confronted a drunk and clearly violent drug dealer you don’t know how it’s going to play but his behaviour wasn’t acceptable for me so I told him that. On the condition that I never spoke to him again, he did agree to move carriages. Whether he shut up once he had moved I don’t know but by the end of his journey he had made his way back down to where he started the journey and got off the train with his other half and their daughter in tow. Some happy family.

And that’s why I’m telling you this. Throughout the whole exchange this guy had his little daughter with him. She must be three at the most as she sits there surrounded by darkness. Her father is effing and blinding (and then some) at the top of his voice with no regard for who might hear; but worse, far worse, is the lack of respect that he has for her mother, or even that her mother has for her father.

There was definitely venom, and there was definitely anger but love?

The reality for that little girl is bleak. Where is her knowledge of love going to come from? Her parents are criminals. If they never get caught then that means a lifestyle outside societal norms. But if they do then she’s alone, hoping against hope that her experience of social services will not result in the outcomes that have been, and are, all too prevelant in terms of homelessness, criminality or lack of skills.

How does the cycle of deprivation, of poverty, of pain, of fear, of anger, of suffering get broken in that context? I don’t know. This is the stuff of miracles. Without a fundamental reconstruction of the hearts of her parents the future experiences of that girl aren’t filled with hope. But that’s Jesus’ promise, that all our future experiences will be full of hope.

That’s not a guarantee against pain or suffering or anything else negative but it’s a promise of hope. Hope against hope, that’s what I prayed for that little girl. If you’re reading this, would you do that too?

I pray that in Exeter and in Bristol God’s hands and feet are active in working alongside drug addicts and drug dealers, that the prisons and the police are infected by the viral, guerrilla values of the kingdom, that those providing care for children caught up in these most awful of situations know no limits on their love and compassion.

Would you ask that God would do something for the lives of all three? Challenge him. Beg him. Implore him.

God show us as the church, as your body, as your instruments of grace how we can shine your light into this darkness.

I have absolutely no idea what the future of that girl, her mummy and her daddy will be. I trust that God does.

I hope against hope that she hears and knows Jeremiah 29:11.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Thank you Father that you do.