As Christians we are blessed with many things, including a library of books to guide us. We call it the Bible and it contains history, poetry, law, prophecy, apocalyptic writings, letters and philosophy and wisdom literature. All there to help us understand God, and the world and our place and role in it.
I started out my working life as an Applied Biologist, including 2 years helping with biochemical research into plants at Sheffield University. But I then moved on to an extensive career in Trading Standards and associated regulation and advisory activities which I found mostly enjoyable and rewarding. My interest in science generally and in biology in particular, has never left me and although the recent Covid-19 pandemic was a major threat to society at large it was interesting to see how people reacted to it. Some were very sensible and “followed the science” as encouraged by our leaders. Some sought refuge in on-line forums and chose to believe all manner of things, despite what the facts said. Many lost hope, assuming it was the end of the world and retreated into their “shells.” Fraser’s oft spoken comment of “we’re all doomed!” on “Dad’s Army” has come to mind many times in the last couple of years. I was glad I had a biological background and had some understanding of what was happening at the cellular level as well. Fascinating but potentially lethal.
A pandemic, as with any major challenge, encourages us to re-examine our basic philosophies and sort out what is important to us. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians, Ch. 12 – 14) encourages us to hold on to Faith, Hope and Love as we worship God and remember that Love is pivotal for the Church. Without it everything else is wasted. But Faith and Hope are important as well. In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) Jesus challenged the Teacher of the Law to consider who his neighbour is, and that God was not just interested in the Jews. Everybody is important. Look after the beaten man, whoever and wherever he is, and you will be doing what God wants you to do. Walking by on the other side should not be an option. If someone is suffering – do something about it if you can. That was also Jesus’ message at the start of his ministry in Luke 4, verses 16 – 30, reading Isaiah 61 in the synagogue at Nazareth. It was his mission statement.
Hans Rosling in his book “Factfulness” reminds us that there are lots of good things going on in the world.[i] It was written before the Covid pandemic, but the basic message is still valid and needs to be repeated. There are good things going on in the world and if the Church gives up, as some in the church seem to want to do, then there is a danger that the poor, disadvantaged and vulnerable will suffer more than they should do. That is not the message of Luke 4.
We all know that the world is at a turning point with climate change and the need to help the poorest help themselves. The church has a pivotal role in what happens next. Many of the answers are out there, but they involve us doing and looking at things differently. We need to notice how God is building his library of resources for us to use. And then use them. Mary Midgley in “What is Philosophy for?” encourages us to see the world from different perspectives – to look through different windows into the world.[ii] Using biology, physics, economics, theology and/or other disciplines together to enrich our reasoning will give us a better understanding of what is going on and how to do something about it. Perhaps this is how God is speaking to the world today? Is this how the body of Jesus should work? Is this not the message of God to the church today? (Ephesians 4: 11 – 16, 1 Corinthians 12: 12 – 31, and Romans 12: 1 – 12). We need to bring all our gifts and resources together instead of pulling things apart. I think many people outside the church, especially younger people, are responding to what God is saying and are getting on with trying to help their neighbour in all sorts of ways. Is the church frightened by the challenge of what God is saying to the world today, and how he has chosen to speak to us?
Ray Nicholson is a retired father of 3 children and grandfather of 5 grandchildren who lives with his wife in East Norfolk. He enjoys the local countryside and is a member of Light of Life Baptist Church. He spent 40 years as a Trading Standards professional in Local Authorities and working for himself advising and enforcing a range of legislation.
Image: Pixabay image by geralt (Gerd Altmann) https://pixabay.com/illustrations/faith-love-hope-waves-clouds-sea-4411141/
[i] “Factfulness. Ten reasons we’re wrong about the world – and why things are better than you think.” Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Ronnlund. 2018. Sceptre Books.
[ii] “What is philosophy for?” Mary Midgley. 2018. Bloomsbury Academic.