Sometimes it can be easy to go along with the crowd, but in a few days, we hear how the crowds cried out for Jesus’ crucifixion. How can we be generous and compassionate when the people around us make it more difficult?
Following the crowd is easy, but it’s not always a good thing. Especially when what’s popular excludes people, or isolates the already lonely. Swimming against the tide is the biggest challenge. But trying it – even just giving it a shot – can be life-changing.
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…”
2 Corinthians 5:18 (NIV)
It’s the end of a lovely evening where a group of my friends and their children have gathered to mix batter, toss pancakes and sample a range of toppings whilst chatting and drinking tea. The washing-up done, people gather their children, get their coats and adjust their hijabs before leaving the house.
‘Thank you so much; it’s been really fun,’ I exclaim, as we embrace goodbye.
‘Yes,’ says another, ‘some of us have been here seven or eight years and we’ve never been invited to an English home before; thank you.’
Another day I stop to chat to the new (Somali) owner of a local eatery being refurbished. He tells me a little about his dream for the cafe and, as he warms to his theme of creating a new kind of meeting place, he describes a venue which will attract a wider, more diverse clientele.
‘The trouble is the white people are just not integrating into this area,’ he says, ‘so anything we can do to change that will be positive.’
Never been invited? Not integrating? Who’s keeping who at arm’s length?
Jesus did something positive when he moved into the ‘neighbourhood’ (John1:14 The Message) and spent time with those not usually invited to the parties of the day. His life ended with arms outstretched in sacrificial surrender to the reconciling work of God. Now all are invited to step out of alienation from God and each other and into friendship with Love Himself. It’s the ultimate triumph of friendship over fear.
In a culture which seems to thrive on negative perceptions and suspicion of difference, building friendships with people from other faith communities is one way we can do things differently. How will you swim against the tide of mistrust and fear? In which ways will you live out the message of reconciliation with which we have been entrusted?
Here are some great ways to respond to today’s Reflection. Green is the simplest, Yellow takes a bit more effort, and Red is more of a challenge!
GREEN:Have a think. Are there any situations where we’re in danger of following the crowd? First stop is social media. Review last week’s posts. Are we ungenerous in how we talk about others on Facebook and Twitter? Resist joining in for the sake of it especially if it might take you to narcissistic or gossipy places.
YELLOW:Office gossip? Train delays making everyone grumpy with train staff? Collective moaning becoming a habit? Think about how you can turn against the tide. Or, something tougher: Who have you been pushing to the back of your mind during the 40acts challenges? Take the challenge to do good to that person today, even if you think they won’t appreciate it.
RED:Challenge ungenerous behaviours that damage communities, our country, and the world. For example? Well, are we locked into a worldly pattern of consumption? Thinking about how our shopping choices affect the world? Generous in the things we like and share on social media?