October 2017

Another Country

I sometimes hear people, usually politicians, describing the UK as a Christian country: and when they are challenged as to what they mean by this, they tend to point to this country’s Christian heritage, tradition and buildings. And I would have to say, this really grates with me.

After all, if you read the Gospels, you find Jesus saying nothing about heritage and traditions, and all he says about the buildings is how the Temple will fall and be rebuilt in three days. Instead Jesus talks about relationships. The central message of the Gospel is one of love, of accepting everyone as they are and rejoicing in our infinite variety. And instinct tells me that, if we are to be a truly Christian country, looking at how people treat each other is the ultimate litmus test.

There is a church which has the following notice outside:

Love thy neighbour

thy homeless neighbour

thy gay neighbour

thy Muslim neighbour

thy black neighbour

thy immigrant neighbour

thy Jewish neighbour

thy addicted neighbour

thy Christian neighbour

thy atheist neighbour

thy disabled neighbour

Jesus didn’t make exceptions.

We don’t either.

I wonder, if we had notices saying exactly that outside our churches whether people would be encouraged or outraged: I will be interested to see if any PCC’s are anxious to have a notice like that attached to their churches. But I have no doubt at all what Jesus’ reaction would be.

If we are truly to be a Christian country, or, more realistically, if we truly want this country to be a Christian country, then we must try to make this a place where people do actually love, appreciate and accept their neighbour, whoever or whatever he or she might be. And that is not the sort of attitude that can be imposed from above: it has to come from the grass roots - from us. If we want this to be a Christian country, it starts with us.

There is, of course, the inherent contradiction that anyone who describes himself or herself as a perfect Christian manifestly isn’t: so any country that thinks of itself as a Christian country manifestly isn’t. Self delusion is not the main criterion for a Christian life. but, just as I am sure many of us want to progress further on our Christian pilgrimage, so it would be good if our country wanted to as well. But the first step is to recognise that Jesus didn’t make exceptions and then to ask ourselves honestly whether we do.

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