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HEART newspaper: Heart Publications | December 13, 2017

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Sin in high places – God is turning on the light

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The exposure of the sinfulness in secular society is coming as a shock to secular humanists, but even Brexit’s instability boils down to our problems with human relationships

This is the time of year when family life takes centre stage. Christmas and New Year parties are times of reunion and remembering — times of giving and receiving. In December our relationships with others become of supreme importance. We are no longer just individuals going about our own business and fulfilling our ambitions, but we think of others and how we can give them pleasure.

It is also the time of year when our mailbox gets filled with appeals from charities caring for the homeless and others less fortunate than ourselves.  There is a nationwide shift of emphasis from self to others: but it doesn’t last long into the New Year!

Sex scandals 
Recently, radio, TV and newspapers have been filled with the misbehaviour of politicians in their relationships with members of their staff in Parliament. It is reported that many of the incidents of sexual improprieties are due to the unusual circumstances of MPs being away from home, separated from family life and thrown together with members of the opposite sex in work
situations.

Great opportunity
The good news is that God is turning on the light which is uncovering a lot of the sinfulness in secular society. This is coming as a shock to many people who were thinking that everything is wonderful in our brave new politically-correct world of secular humanism!

Nor is it just in Westminster and in politics that these things are happening.  In many other walks of life, particularly in the film and fashion industries, men in positions of power take advantage of their authority over ambitious young people who want to get on in their profession. It all comes back to the issue of personal relationships and trust which cannot be controlled by legislation. They are now realising that something has gone seriously wrong from which the whole population is suffering. Hence street crime, gang warfare, overflowing prisons, mental breakdown and many more social problems.

Relationship breakdown
Surely, all the major problems we see in modern society come down to human relationships which have failed, broken or been abused in some way. The ongoing drama over Brexit and the political instability right across the Western world are but symptoms of this deeper, more systemic problem of human relationships.

In the same way, the wave of sex scandals that has been delighting the media has its origins in broken human relations – particularly the breakdown of marriage, but also a broader disintegration of trust and commitment to faithful and loving relationships.

Churches are good models
This is where Christian churches have much to teach secular humanists. In most churches, relationships are a strong uniting factor and churchgoers regularly exchange greetings with hugs or kisses, with no fears of sexual impropriety. Even in Anglican churches, often regarded as formal and cold institutions, sharing ‘the peace’ is usually an opportunity for hugs all round!

I’m not pretending that nothing ever goes wrong in personal relationships within churches or that all Christian marriages are perfectly harmonious. But Christians know that when our relationship with God is right, our human relationships also become right, because we respect each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Where there is love and trust in God there will be love and trust in our human relationships.

Personal relationships 
I look back to my early days in ministry when I used to visit the sick in their homes without any thought of my personal safety or the possibility of my being accused of some wrongdoing. Even today, in the highly charged atmosphere of political correctness it is still important to maintain our personal values.

Just last month I was in my study with the door shut and the young woman who does some cleaning for us was hoovering in the dining room. I heard her phone go and then she burst into loud crying. My wife was out so I immediately went to her and between uncontrollable sobs she managed to say that someone in her family had died. I had hardly ever spoken to her before but I simply took her into my arms and let her cry on my shoulder.

When she quietened down I told her I believe in prayer and could I pray for her? She nodded and I prayed, which brought about a total transformation. She said she used to go to Sunday School as a child but hadn’t been to church for years; so I talked about the love of God and gently gave her the Gospel. Far from accusing me of ‘inappropriate behaviour’, she was profuse in her thanks. We were just two human beings – one in distress and the other offering comfort.

Back to basics 
The central problem in Western society today is that we have abandoned the biblical structure of authority – God’s place in the nation. The older generation in Britain were raised on the maxim “God first, others second, self last”.

Today we have reversed that and discarded our Judeo-Christian heritage. This is why we are seeing the moral, social and political foundations of society crumbling.  We have rebelled against God’s good plan for humanity.

This is a great opportunity for Christians to show that our values are very different. When you allow God into your life it changes everything. We all have the opportunity of sharing the good news of Jesus in our carol services and New Year celebrations and praying our neighbours into the Kingdom.

A happy Christmas and a great New Year!