Grace Communion International

…and another thing  by John Stettaford

As you know, I am an avid reader of ancient tomes. For some while I’ve been reading a 19th-century German Jewish convert to Christianity, Augustus Neander. He didn’t write a commentary or a translation, rather a history of the development of Christianity in the West. I’ve just begun reading volume 4.

In volume three we got up to 1087 with all kinds of upheaval in Europe (not least William the bastard’s conquest of Britain). But now in volume 4 he is going to chronicle the split between the West (Catholic) and East (Orthodox) churches. And it’s apparently not as simple as I for one had been led to believe. It involves acceptance of the Trinity, acceptance of the Apocryphal books and others, and no less, as one would expect with human beings, politics, with antagonism particularly against a single Western pope. After all, Henry viii’s split with Rome had little to do with religion, more to do with him wanting a divorce—politics again, and sex.

So why burden you with my pre-occupation? Well, I have noticed a similar situation in our society. We’re into “the holy week of Ramadan” and the local London news has been full of it. And I don’t remember any such saturation coverage of Easter. In fact, I only commented to one of my regular correspondents that it was striking how that our religious leaders had been deathly silent during our lockdown, with few exceptions.

There has been coverage of an upsurge in domestic violence, and that people, especially the elderly, are fearful for their futures. Indeed, talking to one of my regular correspondents who lives alone in London in a beautiful council flat, our conversation turned to her fearfulness of the present situation and how that she saw nowhere to turn. The news media doesn’t help either. “So-and-so’s died of Covid-19—but it’s okay because he had underlying health issues.”

Shades of Job and his comforters! Well, I hope I was able to comfort her somewhat. And that’s what the gospel message in our time can do. In fact, it’s the only message of comfort there is.

And yet our Churchianity religion fails to step in to fill the breach. Well, if you’ve been listening to the messages coming from MH, they have all been about hope and the Christian promise, especially the one given by James Henderson on April 12, entitled “Unfinished story”. And that is God’s message of hope and encouragement, and ours too.

Combining Neander and our present scene, today’s Christian may not be in any danger of burning at the stake or exile due to heresy, but today’s Christian is actually under more pressure than ever before.

It’s self-pressure. To live the Christian life, and to live it openly so that it can be seen by others. This is how we witness; this is how we profess our faith. And in this time of lock-down we can shine brighter in our local neighbourhood. We’re under no external pressure. There’s no call for Christians, especially, to step forward. In fact, as much attention has been given to Muslim and Sikh individuals and organisations who are helping in their neighbourhoods. We’re not in competition, but Christians have a self-pressure from their Lord actively to love one another.

We can fool ourselves, and often do, that we are fulfilling that command. We think, perhaps, that throwing money to various charities will meet the requirement. But does it fulfil the “letting our lights shine” part? Maybe the charity will know, but otherwise its anonymous.

Maybe it’s time to think about what we can do in a different way.

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