Tag Archives: Christianity

Singing dangerous prayers against the darkness

God’s taken me and my church on an amazing worship journey these past few weeks. We’ve been studying the first letter of John, and singing all the dangerous prayers. It’s all felt extremely timely.

I’ve found it very difficult to write recently; the political situation we’re in is unlike anything I’ve seen before and evolving rapidly. I wonder what I can say into the face of it that won’t be an irrelevance a week later, or what I have to add to the clamour of voices already speaking loudly, especially when I don’t think any of us have navigated anything like this before and none of us entirely know the way. If I’m honest, I’m fumbling along in the dark trying to find what love looks like just as much as anyone else!

 

But then, into our chaos, God speaks.

 

The teaching in church over the last few weeks has looked at 1 John, which was written to a church suffering from the effects of false claims, which were causing division in the church. Truth itself was under attack, and the Christian community was finding itself fractured. So John writes to assure the church that there is a real truth we can be sure of, in Jesus, and then sets out how we can know it better.

If we want to know where to walk, we need light to be able to see the path. Walking in the light as he calls it is not about whether or not we are ‘saved’, but about how well we know God. We must press into God to see clearly. Honesty and accountability are the path to better relationships with one another and with God, and when we are able to live in total honest openness like this, the truth can be seen and known and division healed. Before we leapt to making judgements of others, we must look honestly at ourselves and see the roots of the same problems in us. And all can be forgiven!

Jesus is our standard against which we must measure truth and love. The more we know Him, the more we can discern these things. And His love, real love, is a love that sacrifices itself, its own interests, and its very life for others and for the benefit of the wider community.

We live in dark times, as truth is under attack and we are being divided against one another. But we can face down and overcome the darkness by striving for closeness with God, personal purity coupled with a transparency and humility that keeps us on the right track and helps build connection with others, and sacrificial love.

 

And then the worship! I don’t know how intentional this has been (I like to think it has been), but most of the songs we have been singing these past few weeks have been the surrender songs*. Big, dangerous prayers, reminding us that we follow a God who became a perfect example of surrendered sacrifice and who is worth everything, and committing ourselves to laying down our lives for God’s work in the world. I say dangerous, because if we really take what we sing seriously and are prepared to let God take us up on our words, we could find ourselves called into painfully sacrificial love for the benefit of God’s people and plans. Laying down our lives is going to hurt! But here we are singing these words, over and over, and I believe truly desiring God’s will be done in and through us, whatever the cost.

And it’s not just been music; on one week we looked back at the bold prayers we’d been encouraged to pray a few months earlier, and to be encouraged by the answers we’d seen to keep up the bold prayers. One week as part of our worship we spent a while praying over our involvement in the world and in politics, that we as a church can bring light into the world.

And a holy silence has descended between these powerful songs as we have sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit working in us. We can be a very reserved church at times, but it’s seemed the Spirit has been at work, breaking down our reservedness, and I’ve never heard this congregation sing so passionately or keep such profound silences.

 

It’s made me wonder about the implications for me personally; here I am, laying aside my claims to a career (which still eludes me) and an easy, comfortable life, and pledging myself to Christ in the battle for truth and love…. I just don’t know how my life and the world situations I find myself in will pan out. I’m aware it could get very difficult and unpleasant, but also that God is worth it all; though I wonder, am I brave enough, should it come to real sacrifice..?

But bigger than my own life, it has felt as if we are being commissioned as a community to face up to the darkness we face in this troubled world, and lay ourselves down in God’s service to work to bring light, and love, and truth, and restoration. Will we take up the call?

 

At the end of one of our worship sessions, an image came to me as we sang; I saw the church standing together, facing a great crowd of terrible dark monsters, but singing out against the darkness these songs of surrender. And the darkness cowered in fear as we sang!

 

* I mean, just look at these songs and lyrics! –
Jesus, be the centre (be my hope, be my song, be my path, be my guide, be the reason that I live…)
Jesus, all for Jesus (all I am and have and ever hope to be, all of my amvitions, hopes and plans, I surrender these into Your hands, for it’s only in Your will that I am free…)
Receive our adoration (we choose to leave it all behind and turn our eyes towards the prize, the upward call of God in Christ, You have our hearts, Lord, take our lives, receive our adoration Jesus, Lamb (sacrifice) of God, how wonderful You are…)
Amazing grace
Blessed be Your name (You give and take away, my heart will choose to say blessed be Your name…)
I surrender all I am to the Saviour who surrendered all for me
Take my life and let it be…
Mighty to save (take me as You find me, all my fears and failures, fill my life again, I give my life to follow everything I believe in, now I surrender…)
This is my desire (I give You my heart, I give You my soul, I live for You alone, every breath that I take, every moment I’m awake, Lord have Your way in me…)
All to Jesus I surrender…
Jesus, lover of my soul (it’s not about me, as if You should do things my way, You alone are God and I surrender to Your ways…)

Guilt and innocence

Last month I was found guilty by a court for taking part in an action I firmly believe was right by God (more about that here), and I got thinking about what that means, to be on the one hand judged guilty, and on the other, innocent.

I’m sure as far as UK law goes that the judge was right to find us guilty, but my conscience is clean; I’m aware there is a Law higher than UK law. It’s a strange thing to know that you’re breaking the law, but acting within the greater Law, to know in fact that for you, you would be breaking that greater Law to remain within the immediate law. Our legal case was thin, but our moral case was strong.

Our human courts are themselves subject to a higher law of justice; God’s Law. What does it really mean to be found guilty by a human court, when under God’s authority you are innocent? To me it’s more important that I am found innocent under God’s Law than under human law. This is far better than to be innocent according to human law, but guilty in the eyes of God, even when human punishment and God’s mercy and forgiveness are taken into account. I want to be actively living in God’s service, a living sacrifice, sacrificing my rights and freedoms where necessary to live a life that better honours God. Heaven’s perspective is far more important than earth’s.

It’s a funny thing; this is considered a ‘loss of good character’ by the courts. And yet, in the Kingdom of God, what ‘good character’ did I have? I began guilty, from the first moment I had the smallest selfish thought, and I’ve proved over and over again that my character is capable of terrible things as well as great good. I had already broken the greater Law before I’d spoken a word. Christ alone is my innocence. When I handed my life over to Him I was joined to His innocent status before God, regardless of the flaws already present in my character. Through the Holy Spirit’s work in me, I can see His good character increasing in me, and that includes the surrender and submission to Him that led to this, the passion for His Kingdom of true justice that drives me, the integrity that drives out fear. Trust me, I have an extraordinarily long way to go before I’m ‘there’, and there’s still plenty of bad in my character. But that was already there, and this action and subsequent judgement have certainly not increased it. My conscience is clean before God in this.

This was a small way of ‘burning bridges’ or ‘faking my own death’. I hope gaining a criminal record helps me stop fearing human authority and learn a greater ‘fear’ (awe) of God, die to human law and live more consciously under God’s rule (which will almost always mean keeping human law – but not always). There are times following Christ may result in a criminal record – after all, that was His journey, He Himself had one – in which case, that record cannot stand in the way of His plans for our future. So I need to be able to step out where He calls me and not be tied down by fear. This is part of the journey. I hope I am faithful to following where He leads me from here, whatever that looks like, and that His good character continues to increase in me.

Tracking down hope

Am I hopeful about climate change? Am I hopeful about making a difference?

These questions have come to me a lot recently, asked implicitly or explicitly by fellow activists, and recurring at the back of my own mind.

I think I am. And it’s really hard to pin down why, and exactly where this hope is pinned.

I have no faith in people, or the political process. I don’t see that we can fix this on our own, or without us all changing in fundamental ways. I believe what we do does have a significance, but I’m under no illusions that myself or any of us can really turn things around in a big way; we’re too small. My hope isn’t in our plans, efforts or campaigns. But neither is my hope in some vague idea that God will intervene, or that everything will be alright ‘once we get to heaven’. I am hopeful for this world, and I don’t believe that God (usually) intervenes with our mess.

That rules out pretty much everything! So why am I hopeful, and where?

There is an ultimate hope in the coming of God’s kingdom of restored relationships, when relationships between God and humans and all things will be set right, which I honestly believe is coming (see Romans 8, Colossians 1). But my hope now in how we get there from here is far beyond anything our plans could achieve.

I think my hope is in Jesus, at work in the world through the Church*; that as we are faithful to Him and work hard at serving Him and getting to know Him, gradually, collectively we will ‘get it’, and that some day the Church will come through and the world will be restored. So the answer in a way is ‘end times’ and ‘God’ – but not in a straightforward way, instead via a process, and through us, collectively. It depends on me, and all of us, but not as individuals. Not one of us individually can grasp it and get it right or have the answer, or even make all that much of a difference, but we are all part of the searching and the faithfulness that will lead us there.

We’re a long way off this today. It’s a long process, and I don’t think the early Church realised how long it could take for us to be changed as a body into what we were made to be. Whilst the process continues, there will be a lot more pain, brokenness and disasters, but I really believe God is working through the Church, leading us in the direction that will one day mean that God can set the world right through us.

So probably I am not too hopeful in the short term, nor in myself being able to directly make too much of a difference. But I am hopeful in a long term sense, and I believe it’s for me to stay faithful in actively following and seeking God in this, and doing all I can in response to what I see God doing, even when it means sacrifice. If I do, I will be part of the process that will eventually see us, collectively, make this and everything well.

*in its broadest sense

Romans 8

This was written a couple of years ago for a follow-up blog to a workshop on prayer I ran for the SPEAK Network*, but it’s something I’ve continued to think about to the point at which this passage has become probably my favourite part of the Bible. Some conversations I’ve had with friends recently about this incredible passage have made me feel I need to share my take on it again here; I hope these thoughts on prayer are as helpful to you as they have been to me:

I’ve been struggling a lot with prayer recently. I’ve been finding it easy to get overwhelmed by the mess everything’s in, and the need for prayer, and not known where to start. A friend asked me how my prayer life is, and I told him that, honestly, it hadn’t been in great shape – I’ve been unable to pray and have just been feeling overwhelmed by it all and going ‘oh God!’ silently in God’s vague direction. And he said to me, ‘But isn’t that a form of prayer?’. And it made me think – actually, maybe somewhere in this, I’ve been meeting God. Somewhere, God’s been feeling the pain with me. And then I re-discovered Romans 8.

Romans 8 is a huge chapter full of all sorts of gold and big ideas, and I recommend giving it a good read through, but what jumped out at me on this occasion was that here is the reason that my ‘oh God!’s are a form of prayer, and an important one too. Here is a description of a process that begins in God’s intimate presence, moves us through a painful identification with the brokenness of the world, and then out into becoming part of the solution and salvation of it all.

It all starts when we open ourselves up to God, and becoming close to God. The more we do, the more the Holy Spirit is able to work in us as we become more open to becoming more like Jesus. We develop a closeness with Jesus as we spend time with Him, and we see just how inspiring He is, and He begins to work transformation in us. The Holy Spirit in us begins to help us share His experiences, and we develop a very real sense of how close God is to us.

The trouble is, opening ourselves up to seeing the world and ourselves through Christ’s eyes, and sharing His experiences leaves us open not only to the love and closeness of God, but also opens our eyes and hearts to the brokenness of all we are and are surrounded by. In Jesus we see our own potential and that of the world; but we also see things clearly as they are in their messed up state, and it is heart-breaking. I can look at my own life; I’ve been a Christian for over 15 years now, but I’m still struggling with a lot of the same things I was struggling with 15 years ago, like negativity, grudges, inertia and anger. When I’m close to Jesus I realise that I don’t look 15 years more like Him than I did when I began. And I see more clearly how far everything is from His plans; my family and friends are struggling with their work, health and relationships, and the whole world is failing to deal with poverty, hunger, loss of biodiversity, conflict, and supremely climate change. Even the little things that show that this is not the way things are meant to be stand out so clearly; I notice how much everyone seems to be in a rush, I notice the emptiness of our 9-5 lifestyles, I notice how many areas are run down and dirty, I notice rubbish. I begin to see entropy everywhere and it feels overwhelming. This is the ‘groan’ of the earth – and us tuning in to it. And when we do open ourselves up, tune in and allow the pain to affect us, prayer happens. All we can do in that moment is go ‘oh God..!’. And in that moment, the Holy Spirit in us joins with us in lifting that groan up to God.

But it doesn’t stop there. Romans 8 dives off into the depths of mystery at this point; somehow, through this process of sharing God’s closeness and Christ’s pain, the Spirit in us works our salvation, our transformation. And (this is the really incredible bit) somehow our salvation brings hope to the world, and not just the vague ‘I wish…’ kind of hope we often talk about, but the real, gritty hope that’s backed up by real evidence of change and firm promises. All of that entropy, all that groans, all the brokenness, is somehow being transformed through us! It’s mindblowing. A clue comes in verse 28 in the Good News translation. A lot of versions translate it something like ‘God makes all things work together for good for those who love Him’, but the Good News has it ‘in all things God works for good with those who love Him’. That makes a lot more sense to me in the context of the passage. This is prayer that opens us up to God’s plans for the world, and makes us vulnerable to God’s purposes. We become changed, and driven to bring change. And this is promised to eventually reverse this entropy in the whole of creation!

So, what can we do with this? I’ve been thinking a lot on the following questions to work out where I fit in, since re-reading Romans 8, and I hope they are helpful questions for you as you try to discover your place in it too:

  • What helps you draw close to God? Where/when do you feel a close relationship with God?
  • Where do you feel the groan the clearest? What places/circumstances/practices put you most in touch with the pain of the world?
  • How do we then bring the pain to God? What helps?

Let’s try to open ourselves up more to God’s work in us, and know that ‘in all these things we have complete victory through Him who loved us!’


*Excepting a few minor edits and updates, this was originally published here in 2013

My tour of The Wonderlands, part 5: Mannheim, and reflections on the journey

(The last of five posts from my adventures: Part 4 here)

Mannheim, 4th June: My final show

We went straight from Munich to see friends in Freiburg in southern Germany for a few days, during which we were seeing Switchfoot for the last time in Mannheim, just to the north. We had a fun few days there in extremely hot weather, lake swimming and exploring the area.

The gig day felt like the hottest day possible! We found a tour poster on a billboard right outside the venue, so M got a photo of me next to it, with the venue and tourbus in the background, wearing my (signed!) Spring t-shirt and other fan gear 🙂 We were totally melting in the heat both on the way there, and waiting in the queue outside in the sun.

But – we connected!! 🙂

This time they opened the set with When We Come Alive, which was really nice. I didn’t capture the set list this time but they also played Meant To Live, Stars, Love Alone Is Worth the Fight (during which Jon came over to where I was stood at the side of the stage and sang part of it ‘to me’, holding eye contact with me till I broke out in a huge silly grin before moving on :D), Dark Horses, Who We Are, Hello Hurricane (with a very surreal intro with drummer Chad on his own!!), Dare You To Move, The Sound, Let It Out and Your Love Is A Song. We were also given a new version of The World You Want, (somewhat imperfect video here!) which was really, really nice. That’s a song that I find very inspiring already, so it was great to get a new version that was even better than the original.

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As an encore they finally played us BA55 – it was total immersion in sound, complete bliss 😀 I just stretched my hands up and soaked in it 🙂 And then Where I Belong – I got the banner out as soon as it was clear they were about to play it and Jon came straight over and took it, and commented on it again, held it up, and looked at me for a moment, then looked round the crowd and spoke about how he’d met people from all over Europe on this tour, and so many new family… 🙂

The crowd was really hyped up again, less insanely energetic than the Vienna crowd but just – they wouldn’t stop!! Any song they could keep on singing they did, Love Alone wouldn’t end, as they kept ‘ooh’ing and Jon had to pick it up again and end it twice 😀 At the end they kept singing Hello Hurricane until they got an encore, and then wouldn’t stop singing ‘oh ay ohh ohh’ from Where I Belong afterwards, even after the second encore (We Are One Tonight/Shadow Proves The Sunshine), even when the crew were packing down the stage! They kept it up without faltering for at least 15mins, until Jon was ‘deployed’ from the stage to clear the venue by means of aftershow!! 😀 😀

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The aftershow was beautiful again! I was at the back of the venue as Jon came out from the stage; I lost him in the crowd pushing to the door but happened to end up right behind him going out, so was right at the front for the aftershow for once 🙂 He played on the grass bank outside the venue, by the road (resulting in much comedy from loud passing traffic). We got Only Hope, Vice Verses, Terminal (‘this one’s even softer – you’re probably the only one who’s going to be able to hear it!’ ‘well, fine with me, it’s my favourite song of the moment!’), This Is Home, and Your Love Is Strong.

Afterwards since I was right at the front I jumped straight in with my chance to hand him my thank you card, but he was thanking me again and I found myself clasping his hand and telling him how much it meant to me – I couldn’t let him ‘out-thank’ me again. However much appreciation I was giving to him, I was getting it back for just being there, I couldn’t out-give the guy! Incredibly I *almost* got a shout out in front of the whole crowd from Jon for being at so many shows, (I forget exactly what he said, I was in shock, but it was along the lines of ‘this girl… she has been here the whole…’) but he got interrupted by someone asking if he’d bring Fiction Family over here 😀 Which I seconded! 😀 Probably good he was interrupted, I think I’d have fallen through the floor! I was so glad I’d written that card!

I can’t remember how but we ended up in pretty much normal conversation briefly as he went to leave, I said it was my last show of the tour, and he asked which had been the best – either this one or Edinburgh, and then said goodbye, and I let him go this time. It felt like a total breakthrough!!!

Then things got surreal – I ended up waiting with M and a couple of others for the bus to leave, but everyone was super relaxed so it was ages this time! Some German guys started singing spirituals on the grass, M and I joined in; the bus driver came out and did a silly dance to our singing, and then whacked ACDC loud on the bus speakers, at which M went off headbanging and air guitarring! We sat on the grass under the Where I Belong banner whilst the bus driver and Ike joked about. Then the guys came out one by one, Jerome first to chat to us all, he came up to me and thanked me, he’d read my card too! 😀 I shook hands with them all, thanked them again, managed to have a funny conversation with Drew since he was in smiley mode, and then a final thank you and goodbye to Jon. As the bus pulled out we noticed someone had written ‘SWITCHFOOT’ and ‘I made a mess of me’ in the dirt on the back 😀

We went and sat by the river, waiting for our 4am train back to Freiburg, M praying with his hands in the water as he sometimes does to mark journeys, me wearing my Where I Belong banner and trying to process what just happened 🙂 All the bittersweet had gone, all was well.

‘Forget sad; I’ll stick with happy’ 🙂

A song for part 5


A Postscript:

So; my reflections on the whole experience:

I think sometimes we don’t know how broken we are till we are healed, or how much of a weight we’re carrying around till it’s lifted.

It’s no less strange to me than it is to you that I should feel like this essentially about music, but the fact stands. Jon Foreman’s work has been so much a part of my life for almost half my life that never expressing the appreciation I have for him and all he does had become a huge burden on my soul, and I’m now feeling such an incredible sense of peace, freedom and release.

This couple of weeks has been an amazing journey, more so within me than the physical journey around Europe. I began as an awkward, emotional, freaking out fangirl, with Jon being very patient and gracious with me but, I sensed, wisely just a little wary of me too. By the end of the trip there had been a real breakthrough; I was, and am, still in awe of him but it all felt a lot more comfortable. I was getting genuine smiles of recognition, semi-normal conversation, and a sense that he was really feeling loved and grateful for the support I was giving. It blows me away to think how quickly and easily things turned around, after all these years and all my worrying, and that I broke through into not just making contact with him but actually finding myself ‘in the family’, a precious middle ground between random fan in the crowd and genuine friendship that I don’t think I’d fully appreciated even existed before it happened. Nothing that happened was outside of Jon’s standard behaviour with fans; he’s famously very good with us, I’m not special, and I don’t care! But what it meant to me was that my message had got through, and that means everything to me.

I’m going to slip into religious language, not because I think this guy’s the messiah; far from it! But it seems the best language I can find to describe what happened. And he is my saint, in the best possible sense, not someone perfect and unreachable, but an ordinary, imperfect human being who is just a little further along the journey in most respects, and whose example and ‘teaching’ is pointing me in the right direction and showing me The Way.

Anyway. This journey has been a pilgrimage of repentance, and a quest to atone for my past failings as a fan. I could never have hoped for as much grace as my repentance has been met with, to be not just forgiven but to feel like none of that matters any more, that I have a new start and am accepted as ‘family’, with thankfulness coming back at me as fast as I can give it away. I feel like I’ve been able to make back a lot of lost time, and that I’ve brought the fan relationship right up to date. I’ve now seen Switchfoot six times in 15 years, during which I’ve met them to say thank you four times, and they know I’ve been supporting them all this time, and know what some of their music has meant to me over the years. Far from being over, it starts here, whatever I’ve been before, right now, I am part of the fan family and will continue to behave like I am. So much grace, it’s overwhelming.

And God’s grace behind it! The whole experience has brought the love and grace of God home to me so powerfully as a faint picture of how he relates to us, responding to our every attempt to reach out to God in love with ever more love towards us, a dance in which God is always a step ahead. Perhaps in our own imperfect way we’re picking up the steps of this infectious dance. It’s unthinkable that God could care about such a ridiculous aspect of my life, and yet God does care! All the time we were singing Your Love Is Strong it struck me as I sang ‘You know what I need’ that God really does know what I need, and was supplying it freely, and the whole experience has given me new insights into God’s grace, reminders of the greater redemption I’ve experienced in Jesus’ acceptance of me.

Every breath is a second chance 🙂

The Christian Left

I’ve been stung recently by a couple of comments from other Christians, which implied that my political views were un-Christian. I am a Christian. I love Jesus, trust Him with my now-and-forever life, and attempt to follow Him. And I hold Left-wing liberal views. Here is my reasoning.

Firstly, I am a person before I am a label. Before we prejudge somebody based on a label, any label, we should begin by trying to understand where they are coming from, preferably speak with them and listen as they explain their point of view, even if in the end we have to fundamentally disagree. If you are reading this as a Right-wing and/or conservative Christian, I am not asking you to agree with me, but I am asking you if you’ll try to understand where I’m coming from.

Before I start on my own position, the comments I heard conflated the left with liberalism*. It is in fact perfectly possible to be a Right-wing liberal (ie to believe that both corporations and individuals should be given absolute freedom), or a Left-wing conservative (ie, to believe in regulating both the behaviour of corporations and individuals) – I know, I began as the latter! Even within these categories there will be a variation between the views different individuals hold, and I think the Bible is sufficiently big and broad for it to be possible to justify any of these positions.

However, in this case, I really am a Left-wing liberal, and a Christian, and what’s more, my politics has developed from my faith in Jesus rather than in isolation from it.

For my part, I stand on the Left because I believe humans are worth much, much more than corporations, and that human need must be prioritised over the interests of corporations. Sometimes doing the right thing is not the most profitable course for a company, so left purely to market forces the needs of real people get left behind in the pursuit of profit. Where the market does drive improvements, and where there is genuine competition to give the best service, I think it’s a good thing. But I think where the market is creating a race to the bottom in standards there is a real need for regulation. I also believe our worth is not based upon how hard we worked, what we’ve worked on, or how much we’ve earnt doing it, but on how God views us. I believe that all people are created equally in the image of God, and that therefore we should ensure that poor and vulnerable people, and even the least deserving person is given their basic needs and cared for. It doesn’t make me a Communist. My husband puts it well – he says that taken to their logical conclusions both free market capitalism and communism both end up creating unaccountable monolithic power structures to serve their own interests over the interests of the majority; the state in the case of communism, corporate monopolies in the case of capitalism. I don’t buy either personally! I don’t want to pull others down into poverty. It doesn’t mean I do not want my country to be great, or to do well for my own family and people. It does mean that I don’t want myself, my family, or my country to do well at others’ expense – I want to see us all pull together, and all do well. This to me seems to stand in line with the message of the Bible, and Jesus’ greatest commandments, to love God and to love others as we love ourselves, even including our enemies.

Justifying the liberal position is harder. Granted it is deeply counterintuitive, and for a long time I held conservative views, so I truly understand the desire to protect others from the harm we can do one another by our wrong choices. However, for me it comes down to this; I don’t believe the law can achieve the work of grace. By that I mean that we cannot make someone a Christian, or indeed even a better person, by banning wrong behaviour by law. We would risk making criminals of ordinary sinners, making it harder for people to openly repent of their wrongs and seek help. In this fallen world, with so many living without the support and guidance of the Holy Spirit, people will sin. All of us will sin. Adding laws only adds guilt and punishment. The only thing that can truly change our behaviour by changing our hearts is Jesus. Rather I think it should be possible to sin openly, so that a person can be set right openly. I believe in using the law as a basis on which to try and lock up people who are genuinely dangerous to society, but not to make criminals of broken people in need of help. It’s not that I do not care about sin, or condone it, but that I think it’s for us as Christians to teach and model a better way to the rest of society, with grace, love and humility, taking our own behaviour seriously and acknowledging that we are all sinners in need of God’s grace and one another’s help. This seems to me to be how God deals with us; giving us free will, allowing us to experience the consequences of that, but also teaching and demonstrating the best way to live, and offering us a supportive relationship to help us to live that better way. I don’t believe it is the job of Christians to police the behaviour of non-Christians. We cannot expect others to live to our standards until they too have the Holy Spirit in their lives to help them – especially when we too often fall by our own standards, and all fall so far short of God’s. God requires perfection, and there’s only One who can make any of us perfect. I no more want to see others condemned to hell than a conservative Christian does – but I cannot make somebody perfect by improving their behaviour a little by the law. Grace alone will change and save us.

I’m aware being Left and liberal is in a sense a case of double standards – that one the one hand I stand for regulation but on the other hand for freedom – but having thought a lot about it, I think it comes down to the fact that individuals can respond to God’s grace, whereas companies (as companies, not the individuals they comprise) cannot. God deals with people, and we have to deal with companies.

As to problems in the liberal church; yes, they certainly exist, no we are not perfect. Neither is the conservative church. We all have faults and blind spots, and they do tend to differ between different groups. However I don’t think that’s a reason to stand at a distance, make assumptions and point the finger. I’ve found Jesus at work right across the Christian Church, in all kinds of different traditions. We should be careful not to reject anyone who Christ accepts. I actually think our differences could be our strength if we worked together in spite of our disagreements, as it’s easier to see blind spots in another’s life than in our own. Wouldn’t it be better to listen to one another, to build up trusting relationships with one another, as individuals and as churches, in which we can lovingly and humbly challenge and be challenged by one another on our blind spots? To learn from one another and grow more Christlike as a result of allowing those with different views and traditions to challenge us?


*Left v Right v Liberal v Conservative – my definitions

Right – belief that deregulation of corporations is the way to improve people’s lives, that corporations act in the human interest so we should ensure their interests are met, that people should get only what they deserve.

Left – belief that corporations do not always act in the interests of the common good so should be regulated to ensure they do no human harm, and that all should be equally taken care of regardless of whether they ‘deserve’ it.

Conservative – Individual and societal behaviour should be regulated to stop people doing what is wrong.

Liberal – All individual and societal behaviour (caveat – if it poses no direct threat to others) should be allowed, regardless of whether it is right or wrong.

See http://www.politicalcompass.org/ for a good explanation of this – you can even take a test to find out whereabouts your views actually place you on the political scale, and compare your position with the positions of political parties.