Parish Magazine Article - December 2020

Bishop Richard

Most human beings have a natural sense of justice. We don’t think it right that people can commit crime and get away with it. It was important at the end of WWII that those guilty of war crimes were seen to be punished. The Nuremberg trials did not accept excuses that they were only obeying orders. It was essential that those accused accepted personal responsibility and its consequences.

In the story of the Garden of Eden in the first book of the Bible, one of the characteristics of sin was evading responsibility. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent, and then they ran and hid when God showed up. The story is a powerful one. It identifies a defining human characteristic. When we are bang to rights, we all tend to try to excuse and blame someone else for our misdoings.

Advent is for Christians a season where we seek to reflect on our own responsibility and accountability before God. For many people, being accountable in this way sits uncomfortably with popular myths about what God is really like. We are comfortable with a cosmic grandfather or Father Christmas type figure, whom we expect to keep the good times rolling. However, we get cross if he doesn’t do his job properly and things like COVID happen, or heaven forfend, he expects something of us.

Religion can be terribly abused if people’s distorted view of God leads them to think they can do his job of judgement for him. ISIS is a case in point. However, faith can be a powerful corrective if we recognise our accountability. Christians sum it up in the creed that says, “one day he will return to judge the living and the dead”. To have our inner secrets exposed in this way would be a frightening thing. But it’s this bad news that led Christians to describe the message of Jesus as such very good news. There is judgement, but with Jesus there is also forgiveness. Advent anticipates the former, but prepares us for Christmas when we rejoice in the gift that sets us freeis judgement, but with Jesus there is also forgiveness. Advent anticipates the former, but prepares us for Christmas when we rejoice in the gift that sets us free.

Blessings

+Richard