What an Image!

What an Image!

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A Picture and its Story: Black man carries suspected far-right protester to safety Look at the faces of both these men.  By now you know the story.  At a #blacklivesmatter protest in London last Saturday men were confronted by hostile far right activists.

Whatever else happened that day, this is the abiding image of the protest; a photo that has circulated the globe.  It shows Patrick Hutchinson, a Personal Trainer from Wimbledon, carrying Bryan Male, a Millwall fan and part of the agitated counter protest. It is a powerful image of a man slung over Hutchinson’s shoulders, and being carried to safety.

Motivated by a genuine fear that Male would lose his life, Hutchinson told Good Morning Britain that he feared that the white protester would be killed if he didn’t quickly intervene.
‘I managed to see my mum yesterday and she is constantly in tears. It’s all very overwhelming; she said she is very proud and I saw my nan as well, and she said don’t let anyone say anything bad about you and to keep reading my Bible.”

What an image! And what a picture of the self-less love of a protector and redeemer. A couple of thoughts immediately went through my mind:

In the Bible, Jesus is described as the Good Shepherd

  • Jesus is like the shepherd who searches for the lost sheep (Luke 15), leaving the 99 to look for the one that is lost, and then carrying it home on his shoulders;
  • And more, Jesus is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11).

This marble statue of Christ, in the Vatican in Rome, tells the Christian story:

The Good Shepherd, ca. 300

Last Saturday we were given a powerful picture of strong love in action, in self-sacrificing service for another.

We too are told by Christ that discipleship means taking up our cross and following Him

If we are to follow the example of the Good Shepherd, we should be putting ourselves in the firing line to bring others home. Whatever it takes, let’s make sure that those who are lost, those who are in danger, and those who are far from home, are rescued by our self-sacrifice and bold endeavours.

True humanity – flawed and loved

I was saddened to learn that Tim Keller has recently been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer.

I know that many of you will want to pray for Tim and Kathy, his family, and the global church, which is so indebted to his ministry.

I am thankful for the many areas of ministry which Tim Keller has impacted, across a wide spectrum.

However, there is a single quote of his which I first heard in a class he taught in the States in 1997, which is perhaps the most profound. Still speaking powerfully to our own day, he summarises the Gospel diagnosis of the human condition, and provides the cure, as follows:

“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
Every human being is deeply flawed, and deeply loved.

This view of humanity needs to be heard today, because it puts all human beings in the one category: we are all able to be creative, altruistic, generous, and loving. And, we are all equally capable of being monsters.

With his in mind, I have been reflecting on the way in which the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol was unceremoniously dumped in the river last Sunday, by those protesting in the name of #blacklivesmatter.

Now, please don’t get me wrong: slavery is abhorrent, and in no way should be celebrated. But does that mean that Edward Colston was only bad, and his philanthropy counts for nothing? What about Winston Churchill: yes, deeply flawed. But can we not still celebrate his leadership in defeating Hitler’s evil?

Professor Nigel Biggar, esteemed former colleague of Oxford University, wrote in the Times this week about the problem with a shallow grasp of history. Contemporary appeals to victimhood, and political power, mask the fact that most of us are a “moral mixture of good and bad”.

JK Rowling has also come into considerable flack this week, all because she expressed her views about transgender ideology. She has apparently moved from a beloved children’s author to an evil witch in the space of a few tweets. Apparently there are only two categories of people now.

The point is this: you will find no perfect human beings in this world – not now, and not in our history. But equally, even the most flawed human being is capable of some good. Beware of tearing down another person, purely to make you feel better about your moral self.

This is why the Gospel is such good news! There are none so wicked that they cannot be redeemed by the saving love of God when the Gospel is heard and loved. Neither is anyone so good that they don’t need repentance and forgiveness, for even “good people” are thoroughly tainted by sin.

So, what about our statues and memorials of the past?
I am not sure; a debate needs to be had. But, is it not possible that we honour the good that even bad people do; and can we recognise all of us are riddled with sin which affects all that we are and do?

Thank God for the Gospel!

#blacklivesmatter

#BlackLivesMatter has circled the globe as a movement to awaken us to the instinctive value of every life, but particularly black lives, that are constantly prejudiced against, treated as of less value, abused, and marginalised in society.

In so many respects I am not qualified to speak on this topic. I am white, privileged, and far from the front line of these conversations. And I have no personal experience of the kind of discrimination felt by black women, men, and children around the world.

But silence is worse. If for no other reason, it is in solidarity and grief that I want to say: #BlackLivesMatter. And more: #YouMatter.

One of CCVWs favourite songs for All Ages is “We’re all the great big family of God” and it is quite telling when we point to each other, look into each other’s eyes and sing “You and you and you…. We’re part of the great big family of God”. Yes, there is plenty of division and prejudice across the family of God, and for that reason the Archbishop of Canterbury, at a recent General Synod, offered repentance for all the ways the church has failed to communicate genuine acceptance of the value of every member of the body of Christ. But beyond this, every human being – you and you and you and you – matter to God. I must look into the eyes of any black person and say “you matter” 

I should not even need to ask “why does every life matter?” but the murder of George Floyd in broad light means I need to tell you why you matter, and why #BlackLivesMatter.

Despite the Church’s chequered history, the Bible is absolutely clear:

  1. Every Human is made in the Image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).

It was heart rending to hear George Floyd repeatedly cry out “I can’t breathe”. God put that breath in you. You live because He made you. No one has the right to take that away.

2. God loved the world

John 3:16 tells us that the reason Jesus came into the world was because of the love of God. And that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. Of course, we all have to respond personally/individually to His love: but that love is for every race, gender, class, age, and culture, across the globe.

3. I’m Blind

And, particularly, I am colour blind – not in the way that some say, as if I don’t see colour. But rather that I am blind to the way I subconsciously make judgments on the basis of colour. Those who say they are not prejudiced may be right; but we are called to examine ourselves, or perhaps more particularly, to allow others, and God’s Spirit, to examine our hearts and show us our blindness, and come to Him to open our eyes. The whole point about prejudice is that I can’t see it in myself. And, therefore, I apologise for all the times I fail to see it.

4. I’m called to love

“The most important {commandment},” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

And that love is to be shown in the kind of practical action of the Good Samaritan.

So, above all else: pray

Pray that you may value all God’s image bearers; that you may share the love of God around the world; that God would open your blind eyes to your prejudice; that you would love your neighbour as yourself.

A Christian is: a mind through which Christ thinks, a heart through which Christ loves, a voice through which Christ speaks, and a hand through which Christ helps.” St. Augustine of Hippo

Check out this brilliant talk by Pastor Agu Irukwu – https://youtu.be/AmBP5dWH9zE