I came across a quote the other day which gave voice to something I’ve been thinking about:
Being a Christan is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.Dietrich Bonhoeffer
We are currently in the season of Lent, which is a classic time for self-examination, based on Jesus’ temptation in the desert. From this we get the image of retreat, removing ourselves from everyday preoccupations to take stock of the direct of our lives.
I have found there is a tendency to write a shorthand for this season which goes: ‘a time to give things up as a form of minor asceticism so you really appreciate chocolate at Easter‘.
But really, retreating from everyday preoccupations I think should lead us in a different direction, towards allowing space – not for “private piety” – but for, as Janet Morely puts it, examining “the desperately disturbing challenges of the world“.
More and more this year, I have felt the brokenness and deep ‘un-safety’ of this world. There are more people in slavery today than ever before. There are people locked into debt, people struggling to keep a roof over their head, people who cannot sleep for worry. And in the news there are reports about the devastation of the flooding in Mozambique and Iran, conflicts in Sudan, Libya and Venezuala, and in all these things and in all these places there is heartache, grief and sorrow.
Lent is an opportunity to ‘wake up’. To seek to see things as they really are, and to confess to our stake in the brokenness and evil.
And as we recognise the pervasiveness of brokenness, and the reality of evil, we are lead not to despair but to clarity and hope. We can affirm in Jesus’ death the defeat of evil, and we can practice following him not in private piety, but in his example of pouring himself out in love as we respond to the most desperate and most disturbing challenges of the world.
I stand at the door and knock
I stand outside the barred church doors/
hammering with my fists/ while around me/ the world dies.
I don’t want to be let in, but pray/ for those inside/ to come out/ and join the fight.Gideon Heugh