A Reflection On Brexit

I understand the reasons why the United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union. Some of those reasons I can sympathise with, and others I simply can’t.

But what’s done is done. And what’s important now is that everyone in the country is gracious to one another, whether in victory or defeat. And in the longer term we have to be united in our efforts to support and lift the disenfranchised, the poor and the weak among us. And more than that we must be a light to the world, generous to those beyond our shores who don’t enjoy democracy, those who don’t live in peace, those who don’t experience freedom, those who can’t even turn to a food bank for their daily bread.

Many people argued that the referendum was about control, but no matter who won, God was always going to be in control. Both sides of the referendum campaign focused on fear, many people on both sides made their decisions through fear, and now the outcome is spreading fear in certain parts of the country and the world.

But while I’m saddened by the result, I refuse to fear the future. My faith is not in politicians or economists. My faith is not in the British electorate, whether or not they agree with me. My faith is not in the UK or the EU, but in Christ alone.

Swimming Against The Tide

I recall an afternoon several years ago. As with most of my long-term memories the circumstances, themes and emotions are vivid, while the details totally escape me.

The afternoon in question I was driving some friends home after church, and there was a conversation that went in a direction I thought was inappropriate, and I said so. One of my friends responded with words to the effect of “Why are you being so holier than thou?”

I wasn’t trying to give that impression, I was only speaking honestly according to the prompting of my conscience.

This vignette was brought back to my recollection yesterday while reflecting on another incident, which had just occurred.

A dear friend had invited me to attend a presentation about a business opportunity. As I watched and listened it became clear to me that I was being sold a pyramid scheme. I told my friend I couldn’t deal with this company, and that she should walk away too, explaining that the business model was unethical and possibly illegal, and if she made money out of it, it would be at the expense of people joining the scheme later.

I told her that while there was nothing wrong with making money, as long as it doesn’t involve the abuse of other people,

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?
Matthew 16:26a

As a God-fearing woman I thought she would find my argument completely persuasive, but in fact she couldn’t understand or accept what I was saying. She didn’t accuse me of sanctimony, but all we could do was agree to disagree.

These situations remind me that even when we think we’re on the same page, we’re not always reading it from the same viewpoint, and our differences can reveal themselves at unexpected times.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), but while we have this in common, our sins are not necessarily the same. One man may be generous with his money but fall easily into lustful thoughts. Another might show kindness to strangers but speak crudely and cruelly to his friends.

And our different weaknesses affect our interactions with each other in different ways. Perhaps we find it easier to notice (and judge) those sins that we feel immune to ourselves. Or maybe our awareness of our own faults make us more sensitive to those same faults in others

But even when we refrain from judgment, and just make known our moral position in a particular situation, we can cause discomfort or offence, often unintentionally.

It’s easy to see how a person of faith, who values God’s moral law above society’s, can often swim against the tide of popular opinion. We see it in the news regularly.

But it’s also true that scripture has so many nuances and possible interpretations – through which God speaks to so many unique individuals – that we can also find ourselves swimming against the tide of accepted wisdom: of our local church, of our denomination, or even of the worldwide Christian faith. This is how churches split, and it can also be how we as individuals become separated from our closest brothers and sisters in Christ.

A Word of Encouragement

Last week I attended my seventh Big Church Day Out festival, and it was a wonderful event, as always.

Although the core focus of Big Church Day Out is Christian music, there is a wide variety of activities and entertainments, as well as opportunities to learn about, and contribute to, many great causes too. I highly recommend it.

In 2015 I took some time away from the music to watch the wonderful “An Evening With CS Lewis,” a charming, humorous and moving one-man show written and performed by David Payne.

I was so impressed with the play that when I saw that it was being staged again this year I marked it down as one of my ‘must see’ performances. I arrived at the venue in good time, found a seat close to the stage, and enjoyed another life-affirming evening.

My purpose here is not to write a review of the show, although I can once again thoroughly recommend that you go and see it if you get a chance. No, I wanted to tell you about the minutes after the actor left the stage.

It’s not my habit to seek out performers at the end of the evening, either for merchandise or selfies, but I felt compelled to walk up to Mr Payne and shake his hand. As I did so, I told him how moved I was by the show, and the fact that I had seen it last year and how keen I had been to see it again.

And that’s when I was surprised, because he was absolutely delighted to hear those words. He thanked me profusely, and I could see that his appreciation of my appreciation was totally genuine.

I was surprised because he had just received a lengthy standing ovation, and my compliment seemed trivial by comparison.

Later I understood the difference. To some extent the response of an audience is a matter of routine. I can’t call it perfunctory, but unless you’ve really blown it, the people who came to see you perform and got what they were expecting will, in return, give you what is expected of them, with a greater or lesser level of enthusiasm.

But when somebody takes the time to meet you and speak a word of encouragement to you individually from the heart, that’s an entirely different situation. A special connection is created between the two of you for those brief moments, and the result of that connection is powerful.

This reminds me of one of the most beautiful aspects of my Christian faith, and that is the personal relationship I have with Jesus. I don’t always feel as close to Him as I’d like to, but I can recall moments when He has walked up to me to share a word of encouragement, and those moments have created a powerful connection that continues to lift me when life gets tough.

And I’m also reminded that I don’t offer words of encouragement to others anywhere near as often as I should. I need to show my appreciation for the good things people do, and for who they are, not because it’s expected, but because it’s the right thing to do, and because it will lift them. Maybe I won’t see the same delight I saw in David Payne’s eyes, but I’ll know my words may be the encouragement they need either now or in the future.

He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:10-11