In 2017, post-modern distrust of authority is well-acknowledged and understood. All that lies between those who wield power and their destruction at the guillotine of public opinion is the capacity of social media to channel rebellion into Tweets and Facebook shares, anger into social anxiety.
Oh, and of course, a million ways in which those with money and power can hide themselves from view, from scrutiny, from accountability, from responsibility while the poorest are forced off the virgin lands by Business, and Economics, and Progress.
Recent focus on the predatory abuses of power in the entertainment and other industries raises the question: What does the Gospel have to say to Power?
Martin Luther’s Reformation was sparked by the challenge he posed to the abuse of spiritual power by those who were supposed to be the vessel of Good News to the poor. Today’s reformation is no less urgent.
My prayer for Reformation in 2017 is this:
Let the World hear Good News – that God is REALLY With Us. That Human Beings are the earthly, tangible representations of the invisible Creator behind the Big Bang. The Poor (and Powerless) are always with us: and this is where we see the Face of God. Immanuel.
And it is crucial that the Church rediscover where necessary – and everywhere reaffirm – the teaching of Christ, that our true spiritual worship of God is directly reflected not in our liturgies or words, our partisanship or membership of human institutions or families, but in the way we treat the hungry, naked, imprisoned or sick, the Least of These: My brothers and sisters.
Our faith is this:
that “the naked, beaten, unjustly tortured and executed Man is Lord,” is the Upside-Down-Turning – the Right-Side-Up-Turning – of the power structures of sin.
Our faith is this:
that in the face of the weak, the little, the poor, the broken, we see the Image of God.
Our Faith is this:
that we worship no graven images, but show the Worth of God as we honour those made in God’s image.
Our Faith is this:
that while humans fear their capacity for evil, we share God’s belief in our value. THEY may not believe but WE BELIEVE and we will live according to the Truth which has taken root within us, Truth which is Love, which seeks the highest Good of the Other, Embracing Poverty and Brokenness within, among us, not succumbing to Lies which lead to fear, anxiety, hatred, self-diminishment, and the demeaning of those around us. Suicide and Murder. These are no fruit of the Spirit of Christ. Instead, Hope, Love, Peace, Gentleness, Mercy, Patience, Courage, Perseverance, Humility Grace. Reforming Grace. Grace Alone, by which we are saved, healed, made whole.
And we hold that belief in Faith-fulness according to the faithfulness of Christ, who believed it through death, “was faith-full unto death”. By worshipping the face of God in our neighbor and enemy, we proclaim the Good News that, as Aslan would say, ‘there is a Deeper Magic’ than our sinfulness, a deeper truth about who we are than total depravity and original sin. The Truth of God’s Being and Character reflected in humans.
My hope for Reformation is that those who believe in the Redeemer will proclaim the promised hope for every member of the human family, and for the whole of Creation.
My hope for Reformation is that we who believe, who are Faith-filled, will have the courage of our convictions, to love ‘others’ and enemies, to love those rejected as worthless by society and our world, to stand for healing and redemption in every place.
The paradigm shift I’d like to see in 2017 is the gift of faith / faithfulness (Greek ‘pistos’) not only as intellectual or emotional belief, but as behavior flowing from grateful, grace-filled hearts.
Secular society is increasingly hungry for mindfulness, to give human activity the wisdom and purposefulness it needs. Wouldn’t it be amazing if that willingness to pause, take stock, to be fully present to ourselves, and to Others and Enemies, could become the place where we would become aware, at last, of the Presence of “I Am”, Immanuel, God With Us? The mystery and miracle of incarnation – that by faith, we see beyond corruption and sin to the Image-of-God.
My hope for Reformation is that the current hunger for Mindfulness will lead to a profound awareness, not only of our Selves, but of the Self from whom all selves are hewn. Immanuel. And the recognition of the same Self in the other selves around us, empowering us to live lives of love in response to hatred, and be instruments of hope, of healing and help.
My hope for Reformation is that the Love who is Eternal will so transform human hearts and social relationships that, instead of fear, hatred and suspicion, all forms of diversity and Otherness will become, amongst Christ-followers, the occasion of a celebration of the majesty and diversity of the Creator of All.
All that damages and demeans human beings will be seen as an affront to our Maker, and all that brings joy and love and wholeness will be received and shared with gratitude.
Rev. Cheryl Meban is Presbyterian Chaplain at Ulster University.
Please note that the statements and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Contemporary Christianity.
Thank you for a sweeping ps.Iquestion however the belief that I am hewn from God rather than created by God. I also doubt “all forms of diversity and Otherness” are “the occasion of a celebration of the majesty and diversity of the Creator of all”. For example kleptomania, gluttony, paedophilia, sodomy, bestiality, the vast majority of abortions and promiscuity (all of which are consequences of the Fall) are rather the occasion of turning to God in repentance and faith and receiving His grace, mercy, forgiveness and power to resist temptation.Z5MW
A Response to What does the Gospel have to say to Power?
One could hardly disagree with Cheryl Meban’s detailed discussion of what Christian faith is really about and what Christians should hope and pray for. Yet to many her hopes and expectations may sound just pious hopes, as reminded by Jack Lamb’s response. She rightly points out that Christians are taught to live according to “Truth which is love and which seeks highest Good of the Other.” But we also need to bear in mand that Reformation statrted on the basic question of Truth and we are familiar where it took us: thousands of Christian sects and denominitions many of which do not want to do anything with each other.
We have to love one another but do not forget Jack Lamb’s caveats! Of course one response is: love the sinner but condemn the sin. But this is much harder to put in practice than it may seem. This difficulty is highlighted in many Christian conversations and discussions. Recently in a get-together a very close friend of mine made this categorical claim: He will not condemn anybody ever for anyting. Such non-judgmental mind set seems to be incresasingly spreading in public discussions. Sometime ago, in discussion programme on TV, a women angrily protetsed in these words: I am proud to be a prostitute and it is my human right to be a prstitude, so how dare you condemn me. In another discussion programme which discussed the alarming problemof obesity which is plaguing most rich countries, a really “obese” woman angrily protested that it was her human right to be obsese and that noone has any moral right to criticise, let alone condemn, people who are obese.
To give one more example: the reason why the sex-predators were able to expolit such large number of young girls in Rotheram for so long a couple of years ago was that the authorities who were supposed to look after the interests of these girls turned a blind eye to what was happening because the predators involved were all from the Pakistani community in Britian and that they did not want to give offense to that community by highlighting such explotation.
Let me conclude in these words: Cheryl, you have a very good ubnderstanding of what Christian faith is all about and your heart is in the right place. Yet Christian faith is something more about than just saying “Love one another”! We must, therefore, bear this “otherside” of our faith in mind as we try to love the “Other” as we love God and ourselves.