From the Garden Bench - Perspective
Words by David Hollows
During her ministry to men incarcerated in South Africa’s most violent prison, Joanna Flanders-Thomas witnessed the power of Jesus to transform hearts. Joanna started visiting prisoners daily, taking to them a simple gospel message of forgiveness and reconciliation. She earned their trust, got them to talk about their abusive childhoods and showed them a better way of resolving conflicts. The year before her visits began, the prison recorded 279 acts of violence against inmates and guards: the next years there were 2.
(extract from ‘Our Daily Bread’ for August 8th 2020)
So, what is your perspective?
Could you have completed such a task as in the example above: God-given or not? What colours your perspective? Does your perspective reflect your background, current status, the culture in which you live? Is your perspective a direct product of your life experiences or political opinions? Is your perspective global or parochial?
Photo by Bud Helisson via Unsplash
When we are young we often see things in sheer monochrome: everything is black or white. As we grow older and mature then grey often becomes the dominant colour of outlook. Some would argue that our perspectives on life are determined by nature rather than nurture and vice versa.
Once upon a time, a political perspective was generational: a person voted in-line with previous generations. Today, peer pressure, for all ages, often directs perspective. In our current society strongly held and sometimes polarised perspectives are prevalent: there are those who maintain that Covid-19 is nothing more than state control rather than a serious pandemic as proven by the medical data. There is nothing wrong with hard-line perspectives as long as the perspectives of others are not dismissed out-of-hand simply because they do not stack-up with own: the gun laws in America are a proven example.
Perspectives can also mean the difference between activism and the state of being a couch-potato. We may be dynamically active about dog-fouling and totally neutral about climate change. In a recent Radio 4 programme: ‘Taking the long view’, Jonathan Freedland explored the impact of sports personalities upon politics. The recent amazing impact the football player, Marcus Rashford, had by persuading the government to provide meals to children during the school holidays was compared with the impact a boxer called Jack Johnson had in the early 1800s raising money to support the starving poor in Portugal
during the French invasion of this country.
Perspective matters and especially for those of who profess to have a relationship with a God whose perspective directs our way of living.
Life seems simple in the Old Testament of the Bible: obey God and be blessed or ignore Him and expect trouble. In the second book of Chronicles chapter 16 King Asa led his people back to the ways of God and the kingdom thrived. Yet, towards the end of his reign, the King depended upon himself and turned away from God which led to war and illness. The conclusion of this story is simple but when the King is advised that God will: ‘strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him’ (verse 9) then perspective determines the outcome. (adapted from Our Daily Bread August 6th 2020)
Throughout the many stories in the Bible, we learn of the perspectives God has: He created a perfect world and He created the first man to be in relationship with Him. That God loves each of us so much that He allowed his Son to come and live and die for us here on earth so that our personal relationship with God can be restored. God has made His values very clear in the 10 Commandments He gave us many thousands of years ago (Exodus chapter 20) and the prophet Isaiah reminds us that God’s thoughts are different to our own (Isaiah chapter 55 verses 8)
In the teachings and ministry of Jesus we see the perspectives that God holds. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus teaches that we should love and pray for our enemies (Luke chapter 6 verses 28 and 35) Also that we should turn the other cheek and give our outer garments (Luke chapter 6 verses 29 and 20).
Jesus also informs us not to judge others (Luke chapter 6 verse 37) and the Beatitudes explain who, how and why people will benefit from God’s blessings (Luke chapter 6) Jesus explains the quality of God’s love and concern (Luke chapter 12 verses 6 and 7) He teaches about forgiveness (Matthew chapter 18 verses 21 and 22) and highlights God’s perspectives about those who are lost in their relationship to Him (Luke chapter 15).
God’s perspectives are not easy to accept and He invites us to explore them in the hope that these will impact our own perspectives and the ways in which we live our lives.
Photo by Casey Fyfe via Unsplash
Are your perspectives in need of a challenge?
The following hymns may be useful to you: May the mind of Christ my Saviour (Mission Praise 463)
Will your anchor hold? (Mission Praise 770)
The following prayers may be helpful for you:
How dare we speak your name, our Creator God, puny mortals as we are, nothings in a universe of splendour? Before the earth took form, you were, and when the earth crumbles, humankind forgotten, you still will be, forming new worlds and fresh universes.
How dare we lift our eyes to see your face, our designer God? You made our eyes and ears and brain, sinews, muscles, veins and heart. We have no claim on you our Maker yet you died for us.
How dare we say we know you, our wondrous God? We paddle in the shallow seas of knowing you and stumble amongst the foothills of our relationship with you. We only exist because you are.
Yet, this is enough to know that you are our God and that you bow down and hold us in your loving arms.
Loving God: your love for us is patient and kind. It is never arrogant, boastful nor rude. Your love never insists on having its own way, it never rejoices in the wrong but only in truth. Your love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. May our perspective on life reflect your great love for us.
God bless you
Signing off; your local Lay-worker, David Hollows