Posted in Letter
‘never, never, never shall be slaves?’
When I was growing up Last night of the Proms represented the end of summer. It was a key marker in my year and we watched and sang along to the rousing words. It made you proud to be British! It sounds like the BBC is making a considered decision for future years. There are aspects of our colonial history which are nothing to shout about but at the moment there is a big focus on the things we got wrong not the things we did well. A friend of ours who is British but lives in Canada reminds us regularly of the Christian message which our missionaries took around the world. He has close contacts with native American people who are grateful for that Christian teaching. He also reminds us of the huge value the Commonwealth is to the world. We don’t shout enough about the good things; they get drowned out by the bad news.
At our team meeting Graham shared with the leadership from Galatians chapter 5:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
Paul, writing to the church in Galatia, is focusing on the legalism which had crept into their church teaching and practises. He reminds them that Christ has set them free, that freedom in Christ is what Paul taught them when he was with them but somewhere along the way other teachers have come in and given them a load of rules and regulations to follow.
Maybe the thinking goes that if we have a clear set of rules and keep to them, can tick all the right boxes, then we’ll be ok. That is what the orthodox Jews tried to do but the Bible makes it clear that humanly speaking we can never be good enough. Even Paul acknowledges that when he was living according to orthodox Jewish ways, he still fell short of the perfect standard which God requires.
The Government is in a quandary at the moment. What rules do we need to stay safe from COVID19: should children wear masks at school or shouldn’t they? Should office workers come back to the city centres (to save the local economy) or shouldn’t they. Should we go abroad on holiday (to save the travel industry) or shouldn’t we. Whatever we do or don’t do there are risks. The risk of catching COVID19 has to be balanced against other risks: the risk of people getting sick from other diseases. The risk if the economy collapses. The risk to mental health because of worry and isolation. The risk to children missing out on vital education.
Has COVID19 enslaved you to fear? Have you taken a measured assessment of the actual risks and made a calm and calculated decision that what you have decided to do is right for you or loved ones you care for? If that is the case then great, continue to do what you do, whilst reviewing the current actual situation. But if your actions are based on fear stirred up by media hype then consider calmly and in a measured way. What are the risks of COVID19 verses other risks?
What has fear to do in the life of a Christian? If Christ is for us who can be against us? Christ has promised never to leave us nor forsake us. The Bible is stuffed full of promises that God will protect us and we should not be afraid. Are you living as one who has been set free? Or are you burdened by the yoke of fear?
Does that mean we won’t get sick? No of course not. We may get sick. Christians get sick and die every day, just as others do. The risk of dying is a 100%. We should pray for the Lord to protect us and those we love from sickness but we must also be aware that men and women of incredible faith have and will die prematurely. But the days of our lives are written in the Lord’s Book of Life.
So how should we be living our lives? The passage in Galatians concludes:
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. Galatians 5:13-14
We are called to be free, not for our own benefit but so we can serve others out of love. Jesus’ great command is to love our neighbour as our self. How are we showing that love to one another, both within the church and to those around us?
September is upon us, traditionally a time of new starts; Graham and I have been opening the Church up for private prayer on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. From September we will alter our focus on Mondays and begin to spend more time out and about in the High Street, making contact with the shop keepers and having conversations as the Lord leads.
From October we are planning to start an Alpha style group at Emmaus, working with Stephen Ramshaw from the Church Army. The details are still to be firmed up but we think it will start in mid October and run on Wednesday afternoons. Are you able to come along to support this? If not please do pray for the contacts to be made.
If you are struggling at this moment and would appreciate a visit from us please give us a call. We are happy to visit you if you would like us to.
And dwell on Paul’s words ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.’
Graham and Katy Hill, Local Church Leaders