I’m writing this with a full heart.
Last night I was having a rare night out in Covent Garden when the London Bridge terror attack took place – not close enough to be involved, but out in London having a drink on a Saturday night nonetheless, just like everyone who was killed. This morning the following thought occurred to me:
We all have a very big choice to make.
The choice we get to make on Thursday in the general election is important, and if we have the right to vote we should use it. But there’s another, much more important choice to make about who has power in this country.
I believe with my whole heart that this universe is not just physical, but moral and spiritual too. I don’t believe it came into being by chance, and I don’t believe it is governed by random forces. I believe that it, our lives, and the decisions we make, have far more meaning than that.
Likewise, I believe the men who carried out the attacks on London and Manchester were not pure evil. They were human beings, who no doubt – like all human beings – had a measure of love, goodness and beauty in their lives. But they had the right to choose how to live and sadly, they made the wrong choices. Perhaps they were so thoroughly deceived, they thought they were making the right choices.
The question for the rest of us is, what choice are we making?
Jesus of Nazareth – for me – embodies the opposite of evil. He faced hate with love and violence with peace. No one that I know of has come up with better moral teaching than his: ‘Love your enemies.’ ‘Pray for those who persecute you.’ ‘If someone takes your coat, give them your shirt as well.’ He lived by those words, too. During his unjust execution he prayed that God would forgive his executioners.
He was also pretty black and white about choice.
He said: ‘The thief comes only to kill and steal and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Sometimes the thief is pretty blatant. It was the thief who murdered, maimed and terrorised on London Bridge, in Manchester’s arena, and on Westminster Bridge. He may have found willing (or deceived) agents to do his work for him, but it was still his work. In a spiritual and moral universe, there are spiritual and moral forces at work, and one of those forces is a thief.
The question is, whose side are you on?
People – we have to choose. It’s not enough to say, “That was terrible” “That was evil” or “I condemn it”. We have to go further than that. Just because we’re not terrorising defenceless people with vehicles, knives and bombs doesn’t mean we’re completely free of all evil and hate. Just as no human is pure evil, no human is pure good either. Or is it just me? I’m supposedly a ‘good person’, but I don’t have to look at myself for long to find traces of evil.
There’s only one way to escape the clutches of the thief, and that is by making the opposite choice. Here are their manifestos: the thief offers you death, theft and destruction, while Jesus offers you life in all its fulness. Isn’t that a no-brainer…? But the difference between this and a general election is that even if you abstain, you’re still voting. If you don’t choose life, you get death by default. We are born into the realm of the thief, and if we want out, we have to choose it.
If you are overwhelmed, disgusted, shocked or appalled by recent terror attacks, this is for you. If you find that deep down inside you want nothing to do with such devastating and meaningless hatred, and you want out, make this choice. Jesus was more than a great moral teacher. He claimed to offer more than great moral teaching. He offered life. You can read the rest of his manifesto in one of the gospels (John’s my favourite).
Those nice polite Church of England people have been praying up a storm in the weeks running up to Pentecost (which happens to be today). They’ve been asking people to pray: “Thy kingdom come.” That’s not a nice polite prayer. It’s asking for trouble. It’s asking for regime change. Which is what we need.
So this is exactly what we should all be praying: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, in London/Manchester/your city as it is in heaven”.
If we want a country ruled by love, justice and peace, we should pray that God’s kingdom comes and his will is done. It wouldn’t come with tanks and guns or anything we could see on our TV screens. It would come invisibly, in people’s hearts and minds – but the effects would be very visible. If millions of people all over the country opted out of the thief’s territory and instead choose the rule of love – and I do mean a real love relationship, rather than mere religion – this would be a very different country to live in.
Thank you for reading my rant. Please vote on Thursday. May the best party win. But please, think about what you’ve read, and make this far more important choice.