Unspeakable?

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 17 December 2017.

This week, the royal commission handed down its report on the abuse of children, five years after its work began. It makes for harrowing reading, made more dreadful by the realisation that this is the sanitised version: the full report comprises more than twice the number of volumes due to the inclusion of information that would breach the privacy of victims.

The crimes themselves are unspeakable, but the focus of the commission’s work was not them so much as how institutions responded to them. And, far, far too often, the response was also unspeakable, literally. Wilful and criminal behaviour was swept under the carpet, never to be spoken of - and such a failure to protect the vulnerable amounts to a repetition of the original abuse.

In light of this, we must speak. Our society needs to be fully aware of the ways in which we have destroyed lives by our inaction. In particular, we as God’s church must speak, for he calls us to have a special concern for those in need.

LightOne thing we must speak of is this: that institutions are made of men and women. The shocking lack of response that has been uncovered was not just perpetrated by faceless institutions. It comes down to individuals, not just structures. JFK popularised the idea that for evil to triumph, all that is necessary is for good people to do nothing. He was wrong: no one is good, except God alone.

That’s the truth that we can offer the world - that we must be vigilant in the future, because none of us can be trusted to do what is right every time. The light must shine in the darkness... (John 1:5)

The Pits Fall

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 10 December 2017.

Let’s be honest: life is pretty good for us. While there are those who are homeless, or unemployed, or lonely, or socially outcast, on the whole, Australia is a pretty comfortable place to live. Food and shelter are readily available, and the divisions within our society are relatively minor compared to other nations.

PitfallThat means that we are particularly sensitive to suffering. When something goes wrong, it’s shocking. Unexpected. We call it the pits, I suspect, because it’s a big drop that comes out of nowhere.

In situations that are so unsettling, it’s easy for me to start wondering just what God is up to. Surely he should look after one of his people better than this, right? I mean, what kind of omnipotent and gracious deity drops the ball?

So the wise Christian will think these issues through before the day of disaster arrives, and be prepared. We’ll know not to fall into the devil’s trap and start doubting God. We’ll be prepared to trust God and his mercy.

And we’ll think that means we’ve handled our suffering well when it comes...and we’ll be wrong. We’ll have dodged the feint but missed the real danger. Suffering, even when borne with great faith, has the tendency to narrow our focus. We’ll be so concerned with maintaining our relationship with God that we won’t even notice we’ve stopped caring about our brothers and sisters around the world.

God calls us to have a heart for others, even when we are in the midst of suffering ourselves. In fact, I believe we know someone who was the perfect example of precisely that...

This Just In

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 03 December 2017.

Dominoes”How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly? And I don’t know the answer to that.”

On Wednesday morning, Savannah Guthrie had a tough job. First, she had to read an official statement from her employer, America’s NBC network, about the dismissal of her co-anchor of the Today program, Matt Lauer, for sexual harassment. Then, she had to find her own words. Somehow she had to balance her friendship with Lauer with her compassion for the woman who had come forward with her accusation against him.

She did pretty well, but she didn’t really know where to go with it. Her uncertainty, captured so succinctly, tells the real story of the last few weeks. As icon after icon has been revealed to have feet of clay, the secular worldview has struggled.

At first, it’s easy, of course. Wicked behaviour can be decried, long and loudly. We’ve seen plenty of that. After the initial shock wears off, however, the real question arrives. If people knew, how could they have remained silent for so long? How could they have enabled abuse?

We can, at one level, understand monsters. There’s a category for them. Our society’s real problem, though, is the callous bystander. The ordinary person, it seems, has a problem with sin - and our world, so long in denial, thinks this is news.

We can pray that our neighbours might discover not just our disease, but its cure. That would be a good news story!

In Dependence

Written by Anthony Douglas on Friday, 24 November 2017.

TurkeyIn the United States, the people have just marked another holiday with largely forgotten religious significance in their Thanksgiving celebrations. While these days it largely means roast turkey, football, and pumpkin pie, it originally was meant to be an opportunity to thank God for his provision through difficult times.

It is no great surprise that this sense is fading, because America explicitly favours independence rather than dependence. Freedom, liberty, and the Fourth of July. Yet we must not be smug, because they are merely being explicit about what human beings all prefer implicitly.

Since the days of Eden, we humans have wanted our independence, and since even before that, God has been teaching us that it’s a fool’s goal. Not only can we never achieve it; even if we could, it would not be what we imagined.

We are made to depend. We rely on one another in our homes, our towns, and our societies. More than this, we rely upon God, who sends the rain and keeps us breathing free of charge. This is why the Bible so emphasises prayer. It’s both a reminder and an expression of our dependence on a gracious God. We don’t just pray because we need things, nor even just in obedience. We pray because it is who we are, as created, dependent beings.

So rather than celebrate our independence one day each year, let’s celebrate our dependence every single day of the year. Let’s remember our loving Father, and not be the turkey who misses out on the wedding feast of the Lamb!   

Of Misunderstandings

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 18 November 2017.

The news this week has been all about redefinitions, and changing how words are understood. The results of the postal survey have come back, and align pretty closely with what the polls have been saying.

Amidst all the hoopla, it’s become even clearer that the world hasn’t quite understood what Christians believe. Apparently, we have been given quite a shock this week, being forced to discover that millions of our fellow citizens disagree with us on the nature of marriage. I’m not sure why we should be thought surprised on this score, given that so many also disagree with us on the ethics of adultery and ambition. Rather, what we’ve seen this week is old news. Paul predicted the outcome of this poll back in Romans 1:21-23. The only real surprise is how long it has taken to reach this point.

Red AppleThe other misunderstanding revolves around the meaning of victory and of defeat. The headlines all spoke of a defeat for the ‘no’ case: numbers don’t lie. Yet we did not lose: we spoke the truth, out of love for our neighbours. The results have only vindicated what the Bible teaches. The losers in this survey are those who now are exulting. Tragically, they are now further confirmed in their alienation from God and in their approval of what is not in line with his purposes. A majority of Australian voters have spoken on what is right, and so of course it must be right. Right?

It’s been this way since a sheila ate a fruit she’d been forbidden, and her bloke ate too. They thought they’d know good and evil ... but they were deceived.

Pray for those who believe they won, but are lost in unbelief.

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