One of the first Christian books I read, soon after becoming a Christian in the late 1960’s, while still in my teens, was “Runaway World” by Michael Green. It was based on the notion the world was becoming increasingly out of control, a perception accented to by leaders coming from a wide range of backgrounds. It argued that Christianity, rather than being an escapist, irrelevance, had the answers to the great questions of life and the message whereby control of this runaway world may be regained and, moreover, this was not based on fictional fantasy but rather objective reality.
As I survey the news in the week just past, I recognize there were many blog worthy items, many of which reinforced the conclusion I came to all those years ago that we are living in a runaway world, the prospect of which I find naturally depressing. The reason I did not blog on these significant happenings was a lack of knowledge, time and energy, but here I want to part remedy that and give reasons why, despite so much here and now stuff I need to attend to, I take a keen interest in what is going on in the world. I find these days I spend much time reflecting on such matters, in anguish and prayer.
I was quite taken earlier in the week when listening to one of those cosy radio shows bringing together interesting people who are leaders in their particular field, talking about this and that. One of the guests happened to have grown up in the Plymouth Brethren, a Christian group I have belonged to for over half my life. This man, while no longer following the faith of his upbringing appeared sympathetic, insightful and understanding. One point that I found of particular interest was that the PBs really did see the world as a runaway one and because it couldn’t be fixed by human endeavour their focus needed to be on the world to come, to be ruled over by the returning Messiah. I got thinking about this in a conversation I had over one of the many worrying things happening in this world of conflict. The point was made there will be a day when swords will be turned into ploughshares (under the rule of the Messiah). Yet, I am these days constrained by the notion that while I need to look forward to a world ruled by the Messiah, that while I am on this earth I needed to do my bit toward making this world a better place.
It seems to me that one of the pre-requisites for doing so is to understand what is going on, despite so much misinformation, misrepresentation and ignorance all around us, as well as an assortment of things that are not right, some of which is plain wicked, like a further development in the war in Aleppo, where we are seeing innocent civilians murdered by, in all likelihood, representatives of the Russian supported, Assad regime. Despite the enormity of the challenge and the risk of being misunderstood and ridiculed, trying to understand the truth of what is happening is something I feel beholden to do. I despair at the conflicting groups and the ever changing narrative and wonder how a just solution can be reached. One of the more obscure yet nevertheless pertinent verses of the Bible that give me this mandate is: “And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do”, for I too aspire to understand the times I live in, in order to know what those who I might be able to influence ought to do. Going back to the Aleppo situation, as I consider the different factions involved and the history of the conflict, I ponder on what has happened, why it happened and what needs to be done now, like how to respond to evil regimes and how to support their victims, especially in order to bring about a just peace and alleviate suffering? And what are the responsibilities of government and their citizens? The answers aren’t easy.
As 2016 draws to an end, I reflect on what many see as the two big surprises in the year, each giving rise to huge consequences, many of which are yet to be realized: the vote to leave the EU and Donald Trump being elected as President of the USA. Unsurprisingly, there are big developments around both those outcomes, even in the past week. Beside Trump nearing toward adding the final piece to the jigsaw when it comes to announcing members of his inner circle (a theme I intend to return to), there are the reverberating vibes around upsetting Iran over his undertaking to undo some of the work Obama had done at trying to reach a peaceful accord, albeit at great cost, Trump upsetting China over his friendliness toward Taiwan, his ties with Russia and the accusation Russia intervened to undermine his opponent, and his pro-Israel stance. All these matters warrant further discussion, and no doubt there will be major developments as a result. To date, concerning Trump, it has been mainly a matter of words – we wait to see those words enacted.
As for Brexiting, it is clear there are some intent to derail the process and / or pour scorn on the government or leading Brexiters for not having firm plans as to how this will brought about and point to some of the untoward affects. Then we have the cold shouldering of the Prime Minister by her EU counterparts or the message that it would take an inordinate amount of time for the EU to negotiate trade deals when it does leave the EU. As a long time Euro-skeptic, I realize my own impatience matters are moving all too slowly and sometimes imagine how as one who knowledge of trade deals and protectionism doesn’t go much beyond knowing what happened in repealing the nineteenth century Corn Laws, I would negotiate the UK leaving the EU if I were in charge. But then if I were responsible, I would like to think that if leaving the EU is the right course of action then all barriers can be overcome by relying on prayer, wisdom from on High and surrounding myself with good people to advise me. I can’t help feeling re-negotiating trade deals should not be such a big deal given it is in each party’s interest to do so.
There are all sorts of other issues that also topical. For example: with Boris Johnson being rapped on the knuckles for accusing the Saudis of waging a proxy war (in the Yemen) brings to my mind the question of where diplomacy ends and bringing to task wrong doing, wherever it is found, begins. A similar example is the tetchy one of recognising Taiwan. One is reminded that decisions are often made on the basis of what is expedient rather than what is right. When it comes to the various conflicts around the world and trying to get to the bottom of where the right lies, we have to recognize all too often our ignorance and powerlessness while yearning for just outcomes. While I have focused more on the realm of politics, there is so much that confronts us every day with things happening on our door steps where we want to do what is best and appropriate and gives the best outcome. I find this to be true in my particular sphere of interest, trying to help folk sleeping rough on our streets, whose stories are often harrowing or those seeking sanctuary because of oppression faced in their places of origin, all too often let down by the system.
Going back to my original thought, most afore-mentioned examples confirm my belief we live in a Runaway World, out of control, and while we need to be wise and patient in our dealings, e.g. with unsavoury regimes and wicked situations, we also need to do what is right because that is what honours the Almighty and what he will honour in return, and trust in the One who is in control. Our place, notwithstanding our natural frustrations that the world is not how it should be and our well intentioned efforts often seem to be of little avail, is to carry out the two great commands, which if you come to think about it have huge implications and cover much of life: “The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”.