Wednesday, 23 June 2010

I could have taken ecstasy but I didn't

Meadow Soprano throws the mother of all parties at her grandmother's abandoned house. 100s of people turn up. The house get's trashed, she ends up drunk and the police have to get called to break it all up. All in all I think it's fair to say that it's the kind of thing most parents would consider to be somewhat out of order.

However, on being confronted about this she comes out with the following line 'I could have taken ecstasy but I didn't'. It strikes me what a weak defence this is. Just because you could have done something arguably worse that doesn't mean that what you did was o.k. In some ways that is irrelevant to the seriousness of what she has done.

Yet how often we use the same defence. So when I think an unkind thought about someone I say to myself 'What's your problem? I could have said something unkind to them but I didn't'. Or when I say something horrible to my wife I say to myself 'What's your problem? I could have physically attacked her but I didn't'. Or maybe when I lie a bit on my tax return I say to myself 'What's your problem I could have lied about loads of things but I didn't'. The problem with this defence is that much like Meadow's it is weak. It's true that I could have done those things which I didn't but that in no ways excuses the unkind thought, the horrible speech or the lie on my tax return. The truth is that I shouldn't have been thinking unkind thoughts, speaking horribly or lying/stealing at all!

We wouldn't expect a burglar to get away with it if his defence was simply that he could have killed the guy he was burgling but he didn't. The fact you didn't do something worse is irrelevant. How can a non-action make up for an action. We may not be as bad as we could be but that is no defence for how bad we are. When we realise this we have no option but to turn to Jesus for forgiveness!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The spy who came in from the cold

For book club this month we read 'The Spy who came in from the cold' by le Carre. It is a book set in the cold war which deals with a main character, who seems to believe in nothing, attempting to infiltrate and arrange the death of a member of East Germany's security force. In the story you seem to have the main guys pragmatism contrasted with the misplaced ideology of those who believe passionately in either communism or western capitalism.

It struck me as I was reading that what seems to occur in this book is not that people change their ideologies but rather that other things (a romance, a friendship, money, power, success) become more important to them than their ideology. So although on paper they would still have the same ideology the determining factor in their life is no longer primarily their ideological belief but rather something else. This process also seems to be at the heart of the film 'The lives of others'.

Now it seems to me that although ideological shifts do occur this process goes on a lot in churches. So whilst some people who once believed the Christian message of Jesus come to a point where they no longer believe that, many more don't reject it but rather find that through their life other things become more important than their Christianity to them. So they pursue a relationship which they find becomes more important to them and then they get a bit of money and find that the acquisition of money becomes more important to them and then they find a cause and find that this becomes more important to them than their faith. What then occurs is that they actually are no longer living according to their ideology despite the fact that they would still say that they hold to that ideology.

I think as Christians we must be careful that we allow our ideology to dictate our actions and values rather than drifting through life and finding that it is our actions and circumstances which have determined our ideology.