Thinking Anew – Choosing to value each other
During these Lenten days we are drawn towards a deeper understanding of the suffering leading to the death of Jesus.
This is important because in these events we engage with the core events of the Christian faith without which the significance of Easter would be greatly diminished. Lent invites us to make sense of our lives in the story of Jesus. His life pattern is our life pattern with one certainty and that is God’s presence. He insists that each one of us is uniquely valued by God, something we can lose sight of when life is tough. CS Lewis makes the point: “We may ignore but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with him. He walks everywhere incognito.”
If each one is uniquely valued then everyone is uniquely valued and this means we have responsibilities for each other – hence the social gospel. We have just had an election and it would be worth taking time to consider to what extent we looked beyond our own interests when deciding how to vote. The truth is that all of us are tempted to vote to protect our own interests or advance our own causes. So who did you vote for?
The electoral reality is, however, that while we insist that the government should “do something”, we also insist we should not be asked to pay for it. So who do we vote for? We vote for ourselves. It’s difficult at times to see how God features at all in our decision making.
Yet as we read tomorrow from Isaiah the ever present God is always confronting us with a choice – dependence on him or the rat race of greed and self-sufficiency: “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?”
In other words, there is something wrong with our lifestyle.
The psalm appointed reminds us that choices have to be made between a world dominated by consumerism and God’s generosity. Life in the rat race makes us “prey for jackals” (Ps.63 v 10) without time to bless and thank God (v.6). There is enough to satisfy everyone’s needs but not enough to satisfy everyone’s wants, the cause of much manmade misery and suffering.
In his excellent book ,What Money Can’t Buy, Michael Sandel, a professor of government at Harvard University, makes this interesting observation on what happens when the gap between rich and poor widens: “At a time of rising inequality the marketization of everything means that people of affluence and people of modest means lead increasingly separate lives. We live and work and shop in different places. It’s not good for democracy; nor is it a satisfying way to live . . . What matters is that people of different backgrounds and social positions encounter one another in the course of everyday life. For this is how we learn to negotiate and abide our differences and how we come to care for the common good.” That sounds like something Jesus would say.