‘Unforgiveable’. That might well be our reaction to the cruel murder of the MP David Amess. By all accounts he was a decent and honourable man who sought to do his best by the Southend constituents he was elected to serve. The culprit will no doubt face justice. Questions will be asked about the effectiveness of the deradicalisation programme, Prevent. All right and good. Yet the MP’s grief-shattered family called not for recriminations, but asked that “people to set aside their differences and show kindness”.
Kindness and forgiveness seem to be in short supply these days. England cricketer Ollie Robinson was suspended for foolish tweets he posted when a teenager, for which he sincerely apologised when they came to light. Universities used to style themselves as champions of free speech where students would go to have their ideas challenged. Not so much these days. Students at the University of Sussex demanded that Professor Kathleen Stock be sacked from her post. Her questioning of transgender ideology was deemed beyond the pale. The professor has been subjected to such angry intimidation that she now needs bodyguards to escort her to lectures. Social media has only amplified tensions, with 'Twitter mobs' piling on people whose views are regarded as 'problematic'.
Politely ‘agreeing to disagree’ is no longer enough. Step out of line and you might find yourself ‘cancelled’, with little hope of redemption. But who of us is perfect in thought, word and deed? The Christian faith reminds us that we are all sinners. Every one of us falls far short of God’s perfect standard of righteousness and truth. That is why we need forgiveness. The wonderful thing is that God has provided the way of forgiveness through his Son, Jesus. He was ‘cancelled’, condemned to death by crucifixion. There on the cross Jesus died for the sins of the world. All who believe in him are forgiven and put right with God. Jesus taught his followers to pray, ‘Father, forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.’
As a society we desperately need to recover the idea that the lost can be found and the guilty forgiven. The cross of Jesus is a good place to start.
*Edited versions in various local publications for November: Trinity Magazine Dilton Marsh, News & Views West Lavington, Market Lavington & Easterton Church & Community News, and White Horse News Westbury.