In Memoriam

I hadn’t heard of Jo Cox MP until she died on 16 June 2016, but from her dying day until my own, I’ll never forget her.

There are two reasons why I’ll remember her. One is the brutal nature of her murder at the hands of a xenophobic far-right extremist. The other is her quote from a parliamentary speech, which was repeated often in the aftermath of her death.

…we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.

She was far from the first person to express such sentiments, but a special poignancy has been added to her words by the way her life was stolen, and those words have been running through my mind recently, triggering two thoughts that I want to share with you.

First, there is the simple, profound truth of what Jo said. How many of us can say that we’ve never made a negative judgement about someone based on a perceived difference between “us” and “them”? Whether that difference is in their race, gender, religion, sexuality, politics, mental or physical impairment, or anything else – yes there are many differences between us and them, and between you and me. Yet if we looked more deeply into our common humanity, looked with different eyes at the “other”, if we thought about the story of their life, the comedy and the tragedy in their history, the same needs, the same concerns, the same hopes and fears that drive them, and also drive us… if we could only see them as God sees them, we would surely discover love for them. I have some way to go in this area. I know I have my own prejudices. They may be different to yours, but that doesn’t make me any better or worse than you. It’s wrong, and it’s stupid. Prejudice belittles everyone (Galatians 3:28, Leviticus 19:33-34, 1 Samuel 16:7).

At the risk of sounding morbid, my second thought was this: how do I want to be remembered when I’m gone? I think this matters, and I think it should matter to you as well, whether or not you share my faith that death is not the end (John 11:25-26). It’s not a case of earning points toward a happier afterlife. It’s not particularly important for its own sake either – my ego isn’t going to be massaged by the kind words people speak about me when I’m dead. But it matters if the way you’re remembered is a reflection of the way you lived your life. It matters that people remember your kindness rather than your eloquence. It matters that people remember your generosity rather than your wealth. None of us are perfect, and the people who know us best will no doubt have plenty of uncomplimentary stories they could tell about us when we’re no longer around. But what matters is whether they will want to share those stories, or the ones that show us in our best light because they know that in our hearts we wanted to shine our best light in the world (Matthew 5:16).

Jo Cox never saw the sun on 17 June 2016, and tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us (James 4:13-14). I believe God has wonderful things in store for His children in the next life, but that doesn’t make this life any less precious, or any less important, so while we’re living it let’s give the world something beautiful to remember us by.


You might be interested in visiting the website of the Jo Cox Foundation: https://www.jocoxfoundation.org/

 

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Please Don’t Give Me a Christian Answer

A beautiful article about dealing with the most difficult situations in a gentle, loving way.

http://www.churchleaders.com/outreach-missions/outreach-missions-articles/290520-please-dont-give-christian-answer-lysa-terkeurst.html

 

How Much Can I Get Away With And Still Go To Heaven?

That dubious motto is emblazoned on a notice above my mother’s toilet. I think I’d be happier to see it flushed into the sewers, as it always makes for irritating reading. I suppose that before I was saved I could see the funny side, but no longer.

“Saved.” That’s the word on my mind, because I was taken aback, utterly astonished in fact, a few days ago, when my best friend announced that “being saved isn’t enough to get you into heaven.” I was shaken because I thought we were in general agreement in most matters of faith, and certainly on such fundamental principles, but what she was saying was completely wrong to my mind. For some time I was unable to even articulate my argument against her proposition. It was just too obvious to even need an explanation.

Of course, things are rarely if ever that obvious, otherwise disagreements and misunderstandings would be far less common in this world. I’m pleased to say that a couple of days later when we talked about what we each meant, we found the common ground I had hoped for.

The crux of my friend’s point was this: that if you say you are saved, but there is no evidence of it in your life – no change in your attitude to sin, no desire to preach the gospel, no change in your behaviour – then what you are saying is worthless. This is effectively the same as saying “faith without works is dead.”

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:13-26 NKJV)

This is true. When you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord – and Saviour – you are changed, and you have a new desire to follow Him and imitate Him. The Holy Spirit dwells in you and you listen to His voice. His seed is sown in you and you bear fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

My own argument was coming from the other side, discounting works because in themselves they don’t save us.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10)

And further to this, I don’t believe that you can ‘lose’ your salvation. I believe it is assured, in the words of Jesus.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27-28)

The words of my Lord Jesus make very clear, and very simple, how I get to heaven.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

That is salvation. The only question is, when somebody says they believe in Jesus Christ, do they actually mean it? Do they actually believe in Him in their hearts? If they do then their salvation, and their eternal life with Him in heaven, is guaranteed. At the same time they will show evidence of Christ in them during the remainder of their earthly life.

None of us reach perfection, but we seek it. We run the race of faith, and though we stumble we keep running, like a toddler running to his Daddy. We just want to please Him, and abide with Him. And the real joy is we know that we will – and that we do.