Hertford Methodist Church seeks to serve God in Hertford and the wider world through love and fellowship
The message arrived in my ‘inbox’. It was time to write my next letter for the magazine and website. A few days later there was an interview with 3 young people on BBC’s breakfast show calling for Members of Parliament to learn to temper the way they were speaking and behaving towards one another. I was really impressed with these young people teaching not just Parliament, but the rest of us too, of the importance of treating one another with respect and dignity. They had even managed an audience with the Speaker of the House, John Bercow, to speak about the matter. Their concern was shaped around the kind of example that our MP’s were giving to society through their words and actions. Throughout their interview on the ‘breakfast sofa’ they spoke wisely and with such careful respect. I would like to thank them for the example they have shown.
Parliament isn’t of course the only place just now where inappropriate (or dare I say simply wrong) use of language and action is causing unhealthy division and hurt within our society. Sadly it is all to evident in so many places, local and global. I am not so naive as to think this is a new phenomenon, but deeply saddened that for all history we seem so slow to learn the impact our words and actions have on others – for good or ill. Or is it that as human beings we have become so concerned about ‘self’ that our impact on ‘the other’ is of no importance? This cannot, and must not be.
Self-importance, selfishness; lack of care, concern or compassion for one another can only produce hurt and pain, and ultimately destruction of so much. The opposite is also true.
The Apostle Paul regularly speaks of the importance, the need, for unity amongst Christ’s believers. He implores the early church to discover what loving unity looks like and as a result achieve. To the early church in Ephesus he writes ‘I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gently; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’ He goes on to say ‘Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us ..’
(From Ephesians 4&5, NIV Bible) Paul understands that these are the traits that bring about unity and wholeness.
These things are not just important for us as individual human beings but possibly too for our words and actions shape how we view the whole of society and our world.
I want to conclude with the words to Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks from his book ‘The Dignity of Difference’. The opening words of the preface to his second edition are ‘The Dignity of difference is a plea – the most forceful I could make – for tolerance in an age of extremism. I see in the rising crescendo of ethnic tensions, civilizational clashes and the use of religious justification for acts of terror, a clear and present danger to humanity.’ (© Jonathan Sacks 2002,2003; publishers Continuum)
Some 15 or more years later, we are certainly not in a better place.
We each have the ability to change our society, and therefore our world for the better or worse by the way we speak, act and live. Let us listen to Rabbi Sacks plea and the Apostle Paul’s teaching; being gentle, humble and loving – perhaps especially in our differences with one another.
PS. I would commend Rabbi Sacks book
Minister - Revd. Debbie Hodgson - firstname.lastname@example.org