Because, nowadays, the relationship between Church and State in the West can be fraught, I often read comments to the effect that Christ said it would be so, which, whilst true, seems to ignore the long period when Church and State worked in close partnership. Whatever the pros and cons of that cooperation, its existence suggests there is no inevitability about the current state of tension. Indeed, it may well be that some of that tension comes from the way in which the Churches behaved when they did have a major say in the laws passed and in the moral ordering of our society. That may be why the hot button issues tend to focus around the areas where the churches and secular behaviour disagree over sexual behaviour.
It’s interesting that the posts recently which focus on God and love seem to evoke a certain level of puzzlement – define love seems to be a theme – as though at some point we can reach a definition with which people who feel uncomfortable with it will not be uncomfortable. Or maybe they are not uncomfortable? The emphasis on love is the natural result of St John telling us that God is love, bit it is also plea to ask us to reflect more on the God we find in the parable of the Prodigal Son, that God who, though we are sinners, came out to meet us, far off as we are. Herein is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. That, for me, is the mystery at the heart of my Faith. God knows me as I am – and He loves me. He loves me so much that Christ died for me, and rose again so that I should have life eternal; and not just me, but every sinner who turns again to Him.
That is why I am a Christian. It has nothing to do with fear or hell-fire. I have no doubt that if justice, as men understand it were done, I should be somewhere hot in the after-life, and that I should deserve it. But God’s justice is mercy. It is beyond any merit of mine; it is beyond anything I could demand; it is given me free – what amazing Grace! I am with St. John in loving God because He loved me first.
The alliance with the State, which brought the Church first safety and then power, has allowed our critics to say that Christianity is all about power. Those who say that know so little about Christ. He emptied Himself to assume the form of a slave for us. The road to redemption leads through Calvary. Comfortable though the chief seats of the powerful are, it is not in them that we see Christ, but rather in each other, and in service. It is for this Grace I pray.