It seems to me that all my life I’ve suffered, all the things I’ve wanted, really wanted, have been denied me one way or the other, and that nothing or very little went right. Is this a family thing, or is it just me? And if God is a good God, and He certainly has a calling on my life, why haven’t I prospered, why haven’t I been happy, why have I spent many years in the wilderness and far from happiness? If God is with us, who can be against us? So Therefore, am I my own worst enemy?
The stories in the Bible, those about humans, (and I suppose most are) are not perfect, they are chaotic, filled with incident, sometimes sad, sometimes bad, sometimes funny. They reflect us as human beings and our stories. Nothing is perfect, things often don’t go to plan, but those whom God called and also those who had faith and stayed faithful to God, almost always won through in the end. Humans are chaotic, even the best of us, and human societies however good and well run they may appear are the product of the human mind and human invention, so are always in some way flawed.
The stories in the Old Testament, the stories of how the Jewish people come into being are to me the most thrilling, enthralling, exciting, interesting, uplifting and wonderful stories ever. They resonate with so many people and we can certainly identify with them as Christians in our many ventures and our many troubles, trials and tribulations.
With civilisation and the rise of cities and settled urban living came many good things, but also many bad things too. Hierarchy becomes an inevitable part of civilised living in many ways. The Fall of Man coincides exactly with the beginning and rise of civilisation. Does this tell us anything?
The Israelites at the start are a tribal people, an earthy people, not a people given to abstract ideas and concepts; they wanted a warring God on their side, and that’s what they got! King David wasn’t a high born educated rather genteel holy person, he was a low born shepherd, a warlord who fought his way to become king of Israel. In many ways he is more like a rough, tough person from a Working class town in Britain or America, not really what we think of as Christians today. God picked a lowly people, perhaps partly to let us understand that God is always just, when the world at large is usually rampantly unfair and often unjust. Religion can sometimes be about the important, the worldly, even the wealthy and powerful, whereas most people are not connected, nor wealthy or powerful. We might think then that God is somehow concerned only with popes and archbishops, king and queens, presidents and people that in worldly terms have power or are seen as important. Don’t be fooled; God is no more concerned with the great and the good than He is with us. We, who often have no importance in worldly terms, may just be the people God calls. I sometimes wonder when Jesus went to the ordinary people, lived among them, in fact was one of them, the poor, the suffering, and largely turned His back on the religious authorities, that part of the reason they murdered Him and wanted Him dead was because of jealousy, that He didn’t go to them or tell them how wonderful they were or how wonderful their religion was. The very fact that the religious authorities crucified Jesus, the very reason for their religion in the first place, tells you all you need to know about them.
There is another England, away from the tourist places and Shakespeare’s birthplace, far from the dreaming spires of Oxford, seemingly from all that is nice and winsome and gentle, an England that is largely hidden from the world, although occasionally there are glimpses of it now and then when the riots kicked off a few years ago and the careful veneer of a nice jolly England where everyone has a rictus grin on their face, cycles through genteel villages, and all have good jobs, money and live in nice houses gets blown out of the water. There is poverty here, drugs, social injustice, the rich often exploit the poor, the poor get blamed for all the social ills, and the rich and powerful feel smug because they are far from the sometimes dreadful poverty and council estates many poor people live in. With the poverty comes the justification, and the barely concealed contempt stoked up against the poor and vulnerable. This is life for many people in the British Isles.
What if Adam, and don’t forget little Eve, hadn’t eaten of the forbidden fruit, hadn’t got into God’s bad books, and decided to do what they were told; I wonder what the world would look like now if they hadn’t been naughty? Then each of us may ask how our lives would be if we had been continually obedient. I can ask this many times, and still don’t get any real answers. What would human history be like if Adam and Eve had just listened to God, and basically did what they were told? All of us have suffered because of our first human ancestors basic disobedience. Incidentally, I have often wondered whether Adam and Eve were white, black, olive skinned or even Asiatic in appearance. But that’s another story hey, for another time?