Minister’s Letter February 2015

Dear friends,

We are aware more than ever that people whose aim is to spread terror can live on our doorsteps. The attack on the offices of the Charlie Hebdo, satirical magazine, on Wednesday 7th January in Paris was shocking to see. Belgium continues to be on a high state of alert after a terrorist cell was wiped out just over a week later. Sometimes it’s hard to sit down and watch the news and stay tuned in, when we hear of horrific things happening to people in different parts of the world.  Recently, I watched some of the footage of the 70th anniversary commemoration of the liberation the Auschwitz concentration camp. The courage, the tears and the pain of those 300 people who had returned to this barbaric place will remain with me. The scenes that the liberating troops found is too horrific to write about here; but I wonder if we have learned anything at all from our past history? The world today seems to invite the same acts of evil and brutality as ever before. If people or groups don’t agree with us, our philosophy, our ideology and dare I say our religious fervour- then they are demonised by us and can be terrorised by fanatics.

So how should we respond as Christians? How can a God of love allow such evils to pervade and destroy people’s lives or when we are confronted with suffering of any kind?

There is nothing new about evil, barbarism and human suffering- these have been with us since the Fall and they will be with us until the end of the world. There is nothing new about the sentiments that lead people to commit acts of evil or the manifestation of suffering. Perhaps because of modern media we are more aware of such things, almost when they happen and with images that are graphic. What has changed is humanity’s capacity to do such terrible things on such a grand scale and with apparent ease.

Our Sovereign God and Father in Heaven allows us to exert our free-will for good or for ill. He allows us to make good moral decisions or plunge into immoral chaos. This ‘freedom’ doesn’t make God weak at all, it makes him stronger. It takes divine strength for him to hold back his anger.

Not only does God allow evil and suffering- there are time when it is part of his plan. God doesn’t simply allow Christ to go to the Cross (as if in some bizarre way it’s happen chance)- he leads him there to fulfil the prophecies about him and bring about the greater good, even in the face of such unimaginable suffering. Even in the darkest of human circumstances- God’s light is never extinguished. Somewhere there is a greater good, even when there are times when we find it hard to see from our perspective.

God is good and kind, and as his people we must choose to live out these aspects of his character among ourselves and among other people. Jesus is called the Light of the world, but we are called to live in our communities as salt and light. Living life like this, will make a significant difference to other people. It will lift their spirits and be a witness to the King and his Kingdom.

Your minster and friend,