22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.
23Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for behold: your reward is great in heaven…
Luke 6: 22-23 – King James Bible
It’s frustrating being a Christian at the current time. This isn’t just because of the absolutely appalling way that our Church of England has reacted to COVID, but also because it’s not hard to see how much good could be done, if only our Church provided some moral leadership, rather than slavishly following the government line on the ‘pandemic’. It’s an understatement to say that it’s a huge wasted opportunity. It lacks so much vision and it could so easily lead to the long-term demise of the Church.
Holy Week is a time for reflection, and Easter is a time for celebration. If only both had been used to make the point that Christian values have never had more relevance to humankind than at this terrible time in our history!
On Good Friday I watched again Mel Gibson’s 2004 film, The Passion of the Christ. It’s exceedingly hard to watch in places and it’s not without its critics, but I feel that it helps to balance up the almost totally benign nature of Christ on the cross that is found in many churches and depictions. We don’t need to see the sanitisation of suffering at this moment; we rather need to be forced to face it head on. And when, in the film, Jesus appeared before Pilate and answered him that his task was to bear witness to the truth, Pilate tellingly asked: ‘What is truth?’ At that moment, that question seemed to speak right into the heart of our current situation. I’ve often said when I’ve been preaching and teaching that the Bible is like a stick of rock with enduring values running through it. It’s desperately sad that we no longer teach those values, and they’ve left a gaping hole behind, having been replaced, if at all, with transient and stupid ‘wokery’ and the worship of celebrity.
So maybe this is a good time to remind ourselves of just some of our shared Christian values:
Hope. Christianity is nothing if not a hopeful faith. The Easter message is particularly important, as its meaning includes victory over death and the fact that God will be with us always, to the end of time.
Justice. The foundation of Christian justice reaches back into the Jewish roots of Christianity. When God looks upon those currently suffering from the effects of lockdown, (as opposed to the virus itself) he must surely weep at our cruelty to each other?
Courage. Christianity teaches us to have courage and think of others before ourselves. It’s a dreadful distortion of Christianity to suggest that churches should be shut in the name of ‘public health’, which has almost become a religion in itself. ‘Be of good courage’ and ‘Be not afraid’ are two foundation stones of our faith!
Joy. Easter is all about joy, as anyone who has ever attended a decent Easter Day service will know. We need to spread this across the world at the moment, to counter the terrible effects of despair and anxiety that have been fed, it almost seems, as a deliberate policy by governments everywhere!
Affirmation. We all need affirmation, even in good times. When we can’t see each other’s faces properly because of masks that have no value at all other than to dehumanise us, it’s our critical responsibility to act as agents of God’s affirmation. We need to shout out to all that we’re loved by God, whatever we’ve done and whoever we are, rather than hiding behind locked doors. Christians have no right to be afraid if they truly have a faith.
Humility. Our world seems to be in love with celebrity. As Christians, we’re called upon to be the exact opposite; to go about our lives helping others, bringing hope and joy, without asking for recognition from anyone. As Christ’s followers, we aren’t here to be loved by the world, but to show a very different way; we’re called to be shepherds, not sheep.
Love. A very small word that sums up our faith. If we love others, we cannot and must not stand by quietly and watch their lives being destroyed. We’re called to be loud in our condemnation of worldly values and we should be proud of being called out, cancelled, reproached or even hated. The Biblical quotation I’ve included at the head of this post seems to be written with today’s ‘Cancel Culture’ in mind. We have a duty to shun mass hysteria, to be different and to take risks on behalf of others.
Vision. As Christians, we should be able to demonstrate what the Kingdom of God means. It’s our shared vision that comes straight from Christ himself, and it’s our responsibility to work towards it and encourage others to do the same. For my new readers, if you’re not sure what this means, see my two much earlier posts called ‘What are the values of Christianity’ posted here in July 2019.
Gracious and loving Father, we need to feel you by our sides at this time. You need us to be speaking out for you and sharing your values with others, without expecting anything in return. Grant us the courage, Lord! Amen
 For my non-British readers, a ‘stick of rock’ is a long circular candy now rare, which in seaside places often carried a message that ran the full length of the candy, such as ‘Welcome to Clacton’.