Taking On The World
Many of the people I meet in my ministry share thoughts of being isolated and marginalized by their Christian life. They say things like: ‘I feel that I’m not understood’; ‘I feel marginalized because of my faith’; ‘I daren’t say what I think’ and ‘I feel the whole world is against me.’ There is a feeling of discomfort in seeking to live an orthodox Christian life, and for many of us life in the church is not much of a help! Even my more liberal friends talk about being ‘counter-cultural’ in their faith and ethics. All this can come quite hard to Anglicans who have enjoyed a rather privileged and protected existence as part of the establishment. Being Church of England always meant being mainstream and in tune with most of middle England. Not any more, as any semblance of Christian morality disappears over the horizon! This is what churns people up and in doing so their spiritual life becomes confused and unstable. In all this where can one find spiritual direction?
The most important truth to grasp is that being at enmity with the world (all that makes up human society) is the default position for people of faith. We now have a clearer understanding of what scripture teaches. Consider the rather bald teaching of 1 John. John teaches: ‘Do not love the world or the things of this world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them.’ (1 John 2.15) The world is at enmity with God, but ‘God has sent his son into the world so that we might live through him.’ (1 John 4: 9.) He continues: ‘Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world, and this is the victory that overcomes the world—our faith.’
There is a great liberation to be found in knowing that the world is not to be trusted, and that it has no power over our relationship with God or our destiny in him. Christians throughout the ages, living with persecution, have and do take comfort in this fact of faith. Any reading of the psalms opens up an understanding and experience of the life of faith as one that is beleaguered and precarious: of a life that can only find security in God. Rarely we pray a psalm that has the sense that all is well with the world from beginning to end. ‘Trust not in riches or in any child of man.’ ‘As for the children of men they are but vanity: the children of men are deceitful upon the weights, they are altogether lighter than vanity itself.’
As St John teaches, the only way to live in the world as it is, is to journey in it ‘through Christ.’ This can mean letting go of some of relationships and associations to become more whole-heartedly engaged with the life of the Spirit. It means seeking out worship and teaching that is Christ-centred, it means ceasing to neglect frequent Holy Communion, it means immersion in scripture. Above all, it means waking up to the call to renewed holiness and commitment that we might be faithful witnesses to Christ in the world of our time.