Understanding road signs is essential for everyone’s safety. The level crossing sign means danger ahead if we don’t stop. The school sign demands caution lest children are crossing the road.
Responding to such signs is a civic duty and common sense. The humourist Gerard Hoffnung told us to ‘ignore all left and right signs, they are only political gestures’ but perhaps we need some intelligible political ‘road signs’ to keep the nation from heading in dangerous directions.
In one of their books, Michael Young and Peter Willmott painted a helpful picture of society as a marching column[i]. It led me to think of Christians joining that column, prepared to call out when we think the column is heading into danger, rather than opting out to shout from the side lines. Surely, there are reasons for thinking that we are losing our way. Some cite the same-sex marriage legislation as an example but I want to examine others which are too often overlooked by Christians.
The ‘war on terror’ is one. Unquestionably, the outrageous attack on 9/11 was evil but was the war in Afghanistan a righteous response? Jesus teaches us to” love your enemies”. He also told his disciples “Blessed are the peacemakers”[ii] Responding to Islamist extremism has not stamped it out but incited a generation of young Muslims to hate the West and spread the infection to Somalia, Syria and other countries. Should we not have heeded St Paul’s wisdom, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil” and “do not take revenge my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath”[iii] Mercifully, when Pastor Terry Jones threatened to burn copies of the Qur’an, Christian leaders stopped him and reached out to express love to their Muslim neighbours.
The way the current economic problems are handled is another example of the need for Christian voices to be heard? The huge deficit in the nation’s finances is self-indulgence for my generation at the expense of my children and grandchildren who will inherit and pay for it if we don’t. The moral case for the Government’s austerity measures is strong but the way it is applied also raises moral issues.
The Bible shows what David Shepherd called a ‘bias to the poor’.[iv] When the rich and powerful are treated preferentially and the plight of low income families is made even harder, the marching column is surely heading the wrong way.
Undoubtedly there are other examples but the crucial question is what are the Christian community going to do about any of them? Politicians are thinking about their manifestos for the 2015 election. If we are still in the marching column, are we willing to apply our biblical understanding and point out a better way in a manner that might influence fellow marchers? That really would be ‘salt and light’ in action.[v]
[i] Young and Willmott, Symmetrical Family 1973
[ii] Matthew 5:44; 5:9
[iii] Romans 12:17-21
[iv] Lev 19:10; Deut. 15:4; Ps 35:10; Prov. 14:31; Luke 4:18-19; Acts 4:34; Galatians 2:10
[v] Matthew 5:13-16; Rom 12:2.