Oppression Has Many Faces

There are two very interesting stories in the news today. The first tells the appalling miscarriage of justice that occurred in South Carolina over 70 years ago when a 14-year-old was arrested, charged, tried and executed for murder in the space of just three months. There is a sickening inevitability to the fact that the boy was black and the murder victims were two white little girls. How far gone do you have to be to react to the murder of two children with the state-sanctioned murder of another? Kristallnacht, anyone? Incidentally, why is the behaviour of the Nazis viewed as genocide but not the treatment of slaves and the descendants of slaves in the US? What about the behaviour of those acting on behalf of the British Empire, or the Portuguese Empire, or the Dutch Empire…? <sigh>

Will there be any redress to the boy’s surviving family? I hope so. My prayers are with them. I thank God that justice has at last been served, at least in part, and that young George’s name has been cleared. It’s too late to bring him back, and too late to find out who the real perpetrator was. So sad. But the judge has now done the right thing, and that is worthy of praise. It signifies change.

The second story is in the here and now, and not thousands of miles away but on my own doorstep. The British government has declared that it is now a crime to use coercion and controlling behaviour in a relationship. This is in addition to existing domestic violence laws. For victims (and former victims like me) this is so encouraging.

The following is from the BBC news report:

[Home Secretary] Theresa May said domestic abuse by intimate partners or family members was a “hideous” crime that shattered lives…

Coercive and controlling behaviour can include the abuser preventing their victim from having friendships or hobbies, refusing them access to money and determining many aspects of their everyday life, such as when they are allowed to eat, sleep and go to the toilet…

Mrs May said: “Coercive control can be tantamount to torture. In many cases, dominance over the victim develops and escalates over the years until the perpetrator has complete control. Putting a foot wrong can result in violent outbursts, with victims living in fear for their lives.”

‘Coercive control can be tantamount to torture.

Did I read that right? I am amazed. Thank you, Home Secretary, thank you! Not only have you put into words what I have wanted to shout for years, but you’ve actually made it possible for perpetrators to be prosecuted. Five years in prison is not long enough, in my opinion, but it’s a start. Thank you, Theresa May, from the bottom of my heart.

Waiting

We’re waiting for Christmas in this season of advent, waiting for Christ the Redeemer, the Rescuer. As for me, I’m still waiting for EMDR therapy. It’s been nearly two years since I was first assessed by psychological services (or whatever the heck they’re called). I had to see several different people, for several different assessments. On the second appointment, the woman asked me “So, how do you compare yourself as you are now to how you are normally?”

I considered this and eventually replied, “I don’t know. I’ve never really known what ‘normal’ is like.” I then told her a brief life history. She referred me on. And then the next person referred me on. And then the next one put me on the EMDR waiting list.

Sometimes something will trigger a memory and I struggle to maintain a hold on reality, on normality. And then, even though I manage much better these days to keep the veneer of ‘okayness’, I feel drained and discouraged. I can’t even talk about the triggers, because they’re too personal, too intimate. Why do I feel ashamed of these ‘intimate’ triggers and their ‘intimate’ effects? I’m too tired to even be angry about it all any more. It just is. But being awash with disgust is soul destroying. It’s disabling in the very real sense of the word. What is the most disgusting thing that you can think of? What makes you physically nauseated just to think about it? Can you imagine living with that, and the shame and disgust associated with your own, private being, within your own self? I know that the shame is not mine, but because it is linked to me in such a deeply personal way, it is mine. I hope that when I do finally have the EMDR therapy I can be stronger, more resilient and better able to take care of everyone. I try my best, for the children in particular. Every day. One day at a time, but for how many days? I waited before. I waited and waited for years and years and years for God to act, for God to intervene, for God to stop the evil.

In the past few years I have read the following passage several times and wondered why it’s there. I have wrestled with it. God doesn’t intervene to save the woman. God doesn’t even punish the murderers, or the cowardly men who pushed her outside to save their own skins. Her ‘husband’, who had just travelled for days and days across the country in order to fetch her back after she had run off  – ‘husband’ in inverted commas because she doesn’t even warrant the status of a wife, she is less than a wife; she is property, thing – this man who is at least supposed to protect her instead deliberately pushes her into the midst of a violent, seething mob. She is attacked and violated so viciously that she dies. And what happens?

God

Does

Nothing.

…[The] servant said to his master, “Why don’t we stop and spend the night here in this Jebusite city?”

But his master said, “We’re not going to stop in a city where the people are not Israelites. We’ll pass on by and go a little farther and spend the night at Gibeah…”… It was sunset when they came to Gibeah… They went into town and sat down in the city square, but no one offered to take them home for the night.

While they were there, an old man came by…  The old man noticed the traveller in the city square and asked him, “Where do you come from? Where are you going?”

The Levite answered, “We… are on our way home deep in the hill country of Ephraim. No one will put us up for the night, even though we have… everything we need.”

The old man said, “You are welcome in my home! I’ll take care of you; you don’t have to spend the night in the square.” So he took them home with him and fed their donkeys. His guests washed their feet and had a meal. They were enjoying themselves when all of a sudden some sexual perverts from the town surrounded the house and started beating on the door. They said to the old man, “Bring out that man that came home with you! We want to have sex with him!”

But the old man went outside and said to them, “No, my friends! Please! Don’t do such an evil, immoral thing! This man is my guest. Look! Here is his concubine and my own virgin daughter. I’ll bring them out now, and you can have them. Do whatever you want to with them. But don’t do such an awful thing to this man!” But the men would not listen to him. So the Levite took his concubine and put her outside with them. They raped her and abused her all night long and didn’t stop until morning.

At dawn the woman came and fell down at the door of the old man’s house, where her husband was. She was still there when daylight came. Her husband got up that morning, and when he opened the door to go on his way, he found his concubine lying in front of the house with her hands reaching for the door. He said, “Get up. Let’s go.” But there was no answer. So he put her body across the donkey and started on his way home. When he arrived, he went in the house and got a knife. He took his concubine’s body, cut it into twelve pieces, and sent one piece to each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Everyone who saw it said, “We have never heard of such a thing! Nothing like this has ever happened since the Israelites left Egypt! We have to do something about this! What will it be?”

Extract from Judges 19

Why is this passage even in the bible! I’m sure there have been arguments and debates over this, but my (unlearned) opinion is that this passage is here, in Judges, part of the inspired Word of God, for people like me: people for whom someone could have acted to stop evil, people for whom someone should have acted to stop evil, and people for whom the help didn’t come.

Hundreds of years after this woman (she is not even given the dignity of a name) was brutalised, Jesus came. He was rejected, beaten, humiliated, shamed for sins not his own. In Jesus, in His birth, His life, His teaching, in His healing, His death and resurrection, that woman and I, we find hope. I find myself.

‘Jesus Is Rejected at Nazareth

Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath he went as usual to the synagogue. He stood up to read the Scriptures and was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed
     and announce that the time has come
    when the Lord will save his people.”

Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. All the people in the synagogue had their eyes fixed on him, as he said to them, “This passage of scripture has come true today, as you heard it being read.”

They were all well impressed with him and marveled at the eloquent words that he spoke. They said, “Isn’t he the son of Joseph?”

He said to them, “I am sure that you will quote this proverb to me, ‘Doctor, heal yourself.’ You will also tell me to do here in my hometown the same things you heard were done in Capernaum. I tell you this,” Jesus added, “prophets are never welcomed in their hometown. Listen to me: it is true that there were many widows in Israel during the time of Elijah, when there was no rain for three and a half years and a severe famine spread throughout the whole land. Yet Elijah was not sent to anyone in Israel, but only to a widow living in Zarephath in the territory of Sidon. And there were many people suffering from a dreaded skin disease who lived in Israel during the time of the prophet Elisha; yet not one of them was healed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were filled with anger. They rose up, dragged Jesus out of town, and took him to the top of the hill on which their town was built. They meant to throw him over the cliff, but he walked through the middle of the crowd and went his way.’

Luke 4:16-30

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word do I hope.

Come, O come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel.

For we are all

Captive as well,

Lord,

Ransom captive Israel.

Painful Truths

‘The truth is, there were Christians on both sides of the American slavery debate… I have no doubt that many of the people who opposed abolition, interracial marriage, protection of indigenous people, black civil rights, women’s suffrage, etc. believed wholeheartedly that God was on their side and they were simply being faithful to God’s Word.  While blatant hate and racism certainly motivated plenty of our country’s past oppressors, blatant hate and racism aren’t nearly as effective at sustaining oppressive systems as uncritical acceptance of the way things are.’

From The Slaveowners and Me: On Nurturing Empathy for Oppressors

Rachel Held Evans (underlining is my own)

A powerful, thought-provoking post on Rachel Held Evans’ blog today. I don’t always agree with Rachel’s conclusions, but I am so thankful for someone who has the both the intellect and the guts to question the status quo, who is not afraid to look at herself, and those around her, with honesty and an earnest, unquenchable desire for Truth. Click here to read more; it will open in a new tab.

Also, before anyone points out that as a Briton it’s easy for me to point the finger at those across the Pond, I’d like to ask my fellow British readers if they are aware of our country’s complicit past in the slave trade? Did you know that the transatlantic slave trade was responsible for the deaths of millions of Africans – let alone the horrors of slavery for those who survived – and that our own great Industrial Revolution was funded by cash directly linked to slavery in the Caribbean? Also, fellow Britishers, are you aware of the level of exploitation and plundering of entire nations that existed under the British Empire? I’m not accusing anyone with these words – just pointing out that we cannot look upon the here and now without reference to the past, especially to past injustices perpetrated by our ancestors and especially where we have ourselves benefited, however unwittingly, from them.

Help Save Mohammad from Execution

Mohammad, an Edinburgh grandfather on death row for blasphemy in Pakistan, is in a critical condition. He was shot by a prison guard and remains at risk of further violence. Mohammad has a documented history of mental illness and has been charged with blasphemy after becoming delusional. It is a tragic case. Tomorrow, Jasmine, Mohammad’s daughter is taking a petition to Downing Street (please see the link below).

According to 38 Degrees (a non-party-aligned political action group), a Downing Street spokeswoman said yesterday that “the PM has been following the case closely.” More than 70,000 people have signed the petition to save Mohammad. Please would you consider signing it too?

https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/bringmohammadhome

Please would you also pray for Mohammad and for his family here in the UK. They must be feeling desperate right now.

A Voice for the Voiceless: The White Ribbon Alliance

Speak up for people who cannot speak for themselves…

Proverbs 31:8 (GNT)

Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free.

Isaiah 58:6 (GNT)

…your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:16 (GNT)

Immerse yourself deeply among people by sharing their life, by friendship and by love. Give yourself to them completely, like Jesus who came to serve and not to be served; you, too, become one with them. Then you will be like leaven which must lose itself in the dough to make it rise.

Little Sister Magdeleine (1898–1989)***

*** From Contemplative in the Mud

Choices: Making a Difference

During the lead up to Easter known as Lent the ancient practice of fasting is observed. Fasting is designed to reorient our focus back to where it should be, away from the distractions (and sins) we so easily find ourselves falling into. Isaiah has some very interesting words on the nature of fasting that God desires:

Look, you serve your own interest on your fast-day,
    and oppress all your workers…

Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of injustice,
to let the oppressed go free,
to share your bread with the hungry,
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
    and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Isaiah 58: 3,6,7 (NRSVA)

 

I want to focus here on the link between God’s ‘fasting’ and politics. Things can get pretty heated around election time. Who one votes for is almost on a par with whether one is a follower of Christ or not (or so certain people would have you believe). I personally am extremely wary of placing politics anywhere near on a par with Christ as I can see how easy it would be to fashion for myself something that becomes more important than Jesus himself, i.e. to make an ‘idol’ of politicians, political parties or political ideals. I also, personally speaking, prefer to keep my political inclinations to myself. I consider the right to a secret ballot just as important as democracy itself. Also worth noting is that this prized thing which we call democracy, and over which wars are fought and men, women and children have been killed, is not in any way ‘biblical’ (and ‘biblical’ is often a term used by those advocating ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’ so I generally steer clear of the word). To get to the point: democracy as we know it, where every adult gets to vote, is very much a 20th century invention.

Having said that, I cannot see how Christianity or Christians can be disengaged from politics. Like it or not, Jesus himself was a political figure. The occupied Israel of 2000 years ago was a hotbed of political resentment and various groups all searching for a new leader who would set Israel free. At that time, Jesus was perceived as a political figure despite his basic refusal to engage with those who wanted to attach to him their own desires and ideals (no wonder he got up people’s noses, he point-blank refused to engage with them in the manner they wanted). Jesus can even be said to have been a political subversive, but his subversiveness – being the embodiment of God’s Upside Down Kingdom – was totally unlike anything anyone had ever imagined. Jesus was subversive even to the subversives! We can confidently state that Jesus was a political radical. Even his death was that which was reserved for dissidents.

So what does that mean for those of us who claim to be his followers? How does this manifest itself in the 21st century? Our world is dominated by politics and although we must not allow politics to become our ‘idol’, we can’t escape the fact that we still live in a world where people are hungry, lonely, suffering, poor – a world where 19,000 children under the age of five die from preventable causes every day.

Every day.

God, help us.

How do we as Christians respond? Did Jesus have any words in this area? The answer is yes, quite a lot, actually. This is (in my opinion) his summary:

‘All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men from each other like a shepherd separating sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

“Then the king will say to those on his right ‘Come, you who have won my Father’s blessing! Take your inheritance—the kingdom reserved for you since the foundation of the world! For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was lonely and you made me welcome. I was naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you came and looked after me. I was in prison and you came to see me there.”

“Then the true men will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food? When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you lonely and make you welcome, or see you naked and clothe you, or see you ill or in prison and go to see you?’

“And the king will reply, ‘I assure you that whatever you did for the humblest of my brothers you did for me.’

Matthew 25:32-40 (JB Phillips)

 

What is interesting in the context of the 21st century is that all of these things are affected by, and shaped by, the decisions of those in power. Which leads us back to politics.

While I personally find it impossible to align myself with any particular political affiliation (because there will undoubtedly come a time when one’s faith or one’s conscience clashes with the party political line) I do believe that Christians should be actively involved in politics. You may be wondering how one does this without political affiliation. I am ‘politically active’ in that I am a member of several pressure groups involved in lobbying both the UK parliament and overseas governments on cross-party issues. In particular I support Avaaz, CAAT, 38 Degrees and Tearfund (Tearfund engages in both helping the poor and lobbying parliament on their behalf). I have just come across another group called Labour Behind the Label, which seeks to promote awareness of the conditions in which garment factory workers carry out their work. I have just written an email to my local Member of Parliament (MP) asking him to sign a motion calling for the companies involved in the Bangladesh garment factory disaster in 2013 to pay the compensation the victims are due. Several big brands, including Benetton and Matalan, have yet to pay a penny. You can read more here.

If you find you’re not in a position to actively do very much by way of caring for the hungry/homeless/lonely, etc. (see Matthew 25, as quoted above), because you have other commitments or find yourself, like me, feeling the effects of ill health, one way you can still be active is by signing petitions and communicating with your government representative (here in the UK it is my MP whom I write to). It doesn’t take more than a minute to read the details of a petition and add your name. It doesn’t take more than a quarter of an hour to write an email or letter to your MP. For me, it’s good to know I can do something.

Two_Roads_Diverge_in_a_Green_Park,_In_the_Middle_Stand_an_Obelisk_01

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.

from The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

 

TWO THINGS – WORLDS APART YET THE SAME

1. In the wake of Saville…

There have been so many cases in the UK news lately about well-known people being investigated or charged with sexual offences. It all began in the wake of the Jimmy Saville scandal. Far be it from me to make any kind of judgement on any of the cases – I do not know any of the facts having deliberately avoided reading about them – yet I do have something very important to say. It is this: our justice system takes the stance of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and, although I cannot see how it could operate otherwise, we must not blind ourselves to the fact that either sexual predators are likely to never be prosecuted, or they may ‘walk free’ due to lack of evidence. This is what happened in my own case. Because of a catalogue of errors dating back 20 years, the Crown Prosecution Service was unable to proceed with a case against the one who destroyed my childhood through years of sexual abuse and terror. Sexual crimes take place behind closed doors. There are often no physical ‘scars’ left to prove what occurred. 

It is my belief that the way evidence is used and presented in cases of sexual crime makes our country a predator’s paradise. This has to change. One woman who had to go through the unspeakable horror of learning that one of her children inexplicably became a monster and terrorised his sibling – my mother – overheard a conversation a few weeks ago along the lines of “they [the alleged victims] must be making it up – I just can’t believe it”. My mother stepped in and said, “Do you want to hear the other side of the story?” and told them, quite simply and honestly, the tragedy that has shaped our family. They were truly shocked. Mum said their greatest shock was that it happened within a loving, middle-class family home.

Sexual predators are no respecters of class, of gender, or any other label. These predators are experts at manipulation and Oscar-worthy in their performance towards other adults.

Where does the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing hide but among the sheep?

Often only the victims know the truth and if we live in a culture which still, in the 21st century, naively says “I just can’t believe it…” then our culture will be, at least in part, responsible for countless more victims.

There are far more predators who walk free than are convicted.

 

2. Floods: when should we build the ark?

I read the other day that the recent extreme weather events, both in the UK and across the Atlantic, are ‘the trailer for Climate Change: The Movie’. This is a very good way to express it. Yet what has the response to the environment been, so far? A ridiculous, almost pointless, ‘tax’ on plastic bags; a few ‘they should have dredged the rivers’; an Avaaz petition trying to prevent climate change from occurring. Unfortunately, while I agree with what the Avaaz campaigners were trying to do (raise the issue of climate change as urgent), they are perhaps too optimistic: climate change cannot be prevented. It’s too late; it has already begun.

BUT if we all take responsibility for our actions we can slow the effects of climate change, so that the catastrophic results of a Global Mean Surface Temperature rise of several degrees Celsius (as opposed to a rise of one or two degrees) can be avoided. If we do not act, the ‘worst case scenario’ looks highly likely.

Individuals, you and I, can make an enormous difference.

We must stop treating the issue of climate change as a left-wing conspiracy. This has to be the ultimate in how to miss the point.

Climate change recognises no political boundaries; it can and will affect everyone, and the poorest will be worst affected UNLESS WE ACT NOW. TODAY.

 

STOP

  • When a child is bullied at school, he is forced to move schools to avoid his tormentors.
  • When a child tells her parents of the rape she endured, her parents go to the police. The police do nothing. The parents are compelled to sell their house, losing thousands in the process, in order to keep their daughter safe.
  • When a violent paedophile is released from prison, he is sent back to live in the same town as his victim despite promises from the criminal justice system that this will not happen. The victim’s family are forced to move away, at great expense and upheaval in the children’s lives.
  • When a child is sexually assaulted by a man in his 40s, she is told by the judge that because she ‘looks older’ and behaved in a certain way (because she had been ‘groomed’), her abuser will not face a prison sentence.

 

Is this really the face of British justice?

 

What if the victim was your child?

 

Your son.

 

Your daughter.

 

Justice begins when we recognise that all the things listed above promote and enable abuse; they don’t prevent it.

 

 

Justice must always be in line with the trauma inflicted on the victim. Too often the victim is granted a life sentence while the perpetrator walks free.

 

This must stop.

 

Please sign this petition (click here to open in a new tab) urging the Criminal Justice System to change the way it deals with victims. Time and again the victim is blamed. The words of the petition are as follows:

 

‘Yesterday, a man walked free from Snaresbrook Crown Court despite pleading guilty to ‘sexual activity with a child’ after the prosecutor Robert Colover and judge Nigel Peters described the thirteen year-old victim as a “sexual predator”.

I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I could have been that 13 year old girl who the judge and prosecutor described as ‘predatory’. Now, I work with other women who have survived similar experiences. I have seen first hand how this kind of victim blaming prevents women from coming forward and protects men who commit these crimes.

It’s unacceptable that the Crown Prosecutor – the person who this young girl was relying on to help get her justice – used this kind of language in court. It’s a sad fact that this kind of attitude is commonplace within society and the legal establishment. We need to make a stand and send a clear message: It’s never the child’s fault.

I’m calling on the Crown Prosecution Service to look at the language used by Robert Colover and meet urgently with our organisation and other groups working with victims of rape and sexual assault to ensure this never happens again.

Please join me.

Jo’

 

The Myth of Justice

I clutched the scrap of paper in my hands. In the centre was a single word. This was it: the missing evidence! Now I just had to find the police officer’s phone number. I’d call her and everything would be ok. It would all work out. My heart pounded inside my chest. I could hardly believe it. The missing evidence!

Only it wasn’t. Because right at that point, heart thumping, I woke up. The missing evidence was nonsense. In reality, the CPS have decided that they could not go ahead with a prosecution due to ‘missing evidence’. Crucial records from 20 years ago have been destroyed, so I’m told.

 

(What’s an appropriate response to that: oops…?)

 

The police officer also told me that another reason for lack of prosecution was that some potential witnesses had refused to give a statement. Unless you’re very ill, dear potential witness, or similarly impaired, then frankly I hold you in contempt. Some of you are Christians. What kind of Christian refuses to help in such a small way against the perpetrator of one who emotionally, physically and sexually abused a helpless child, who gave her a life sentence? If he had left me physically paralysed, would you still refuse to act? Would it take a murder for you to say something? Is it because it’s ‘taboo’ or you just don’t want to get involved? What the hell kind of faith says ‘no’? Come to that, what the hell kind of human being says ‘no’? Turning a blind eye to evil is as bad as doing the evil, plain and simple. To not say something when you could is the same as condoning it. Shame on you!

 

On the other hand, to those who gave statements to the police I extend my heartfelt and warmest gratitude. I am eternally thankful.

 

In our 21st century ‘civilised’ culture, we live the lie that justice exists. We expect crime to bring its own comeuppance. We even tell this to our children. Only it doesn’t. Especially in the realm of sexual crime, where only 7% of reported crime results in conviction.

Seven percent ???

We might as well line ’em up and hand the perverts a license to abuse. Often they’re not even seen as perverts by the rest of society – how many times did victims ‘tell’ about what Saville did? And what happened to him? They gave him the keys to the hospital!

 

Justice is an illusion.

 

But then, I say to myself, is it ‘just’ that as of the past two months I have lived in a house with two bathrooms, two showers and three toilets, when (as my studies for my degree have shown me) a mother in Ethiopia, with a scrawny little girl just like my own, bathes her daughter with splashes of water she fetched herself, carrying on her back a 30 litre container seven times a day, walking two miles, there and back? Is it justice that she lives in a two-room mud hut with six other people when I live in a four-bed new-build with a stunning view over England’s green and pleasant land? Is it justice that with the climate changing as it is, subsistence farmers like her and her husband will find it harder and harder just to grow enough to eat – yet in my country many people refuse to even try to reduce their carbon footprint?

 

So what if I leave the lights on, or boil more water than I need?

So what if I don’t buy fair trade tea/coffee/chocolate/sugar/bananas?

So what?

 

Climate change is real. It is happening. There are things we can do as individuals (not just governments or businesses) to lessen its long term effects. But we refuse. Those who do take action are seen as hippies. Weirdos. We’re sleepwalking into catastrophe… yet  we excuse ourselves from responsibility and do nothing. And the ones who will pay the most for our excuses? The poor. This too is contemptible.

 

If we deny justice, if we deny ‘doing the right thing’, how can we call ourselves Followers of Christ? How can we even call ourselves human?

‘What you do to the least of these, you do to me…’

 

One day we’ll all be held accountable. Are you going to stand on judgement day knowing that Christ says when you DON’T help the needy, you do it knowing you are not serving God? Elsewhere, Jesus talks about what happens when anyone ‘harms these little ones’. If our refusal to act harms His little ones… maybe we too deserve the millstone around the neck, to be thrown into the bottom of the sea.

 

Oh, the joy when we do show compassion and kindness to ‘the least of these’! The Christ in me meets the Christ in you – and both are blessed. It is THE ONLY THING WORTH LIVING FOR. Less than this is just chasing after the wind.

 

I ask you to ask yourself: What can I do today – each day – that will make a difference?

 

‘This is what we are about: we plant seeds that will one day grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realising that. This enables us to do something, and to do it well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are the workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.’

Extract from ‘Compline’, from the book ‘Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals’ by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

‘The Lord says to them… The kind of fasting I want is this: Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor. Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear, and do not refuse to help your own relatives.’

Isaiah 58:3, 5-7 GNT