I write during the last week of April as we approach the General Election (May 7th) with the result looking to be very uncertain. Through the television and daily papers we have heard about the different political party manifestos and what their leaders would like to do if they had a majority in Parliament. Last week I went to the Election Forum in Uppermill sponsored by Churches Together, where it was possible to question the local candidates on what they stood for and what they would do if elected.
Jesus Christ refused to be drawn into the politics of first century Palestine but he did challenge people to think about what values they lived by and how this not only affected themselves but others too.
Reflecting further I was drawn to a book of sermons by Henry Drummond, a Scottish preacher and Evangelist in the second half of the nineteenth century. In one sermon 'The Programme of Christianity,' he begins with a boy's question: "What does God do all day?" Later, he comments that whilst God is in all kinds of churches, he does not wait there for people to come and worship him. Jesus did not give people religion, he came to give new direction to people's religious aspirations. Jesus was critical of many of his contemporaries because they only paid attention to religious observances and not what they did with the rest of their life. The off-duty priest did not help the person attacked on the Jericho road.
The recent news has included two major distressing stories. The first of these has been on-going; the migration crisis in the Mediterranean region. The news has been focused on the loss of life around Italy because of the use of unseaworthy boats and the ways these vulnerable people have been exploited. Since last Saturday, the earthquake in Nepal has dominated. Nepal is a poor country where many people have died because their houses collapsed on them and now there are increasing difficulties with lack of food and water for survivors to live on.
In the Middle of May it will be Christian Aid Week (May 10-16th), with its theme 'Move over Poverty' - a timely reminder again of the inequalities and poverty that still continue in much of the world. The nearest thing that Jesus came to publishing a manifesto for how he wanted to change things, can be found in the record of his visit to his local synagogue in Nazareth, where he read these words from the prophet Isaiah:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord's favour has come." Luke 4:18
Henry Drummond comments that during his life Jesus cared for people much more than he did for religion and religious organisations. As we think about the current news, the continuing issues of world poverty and which way we should vote in the upcoming elections, we might strongly consider looking at the world 'through Jesus' eyes', then act as he would have done.