This is the first post in a series looking at what following the example of the Jesus who suffered for us could mean to our country. (For the context to this, please see the post which introduced this series yesterday)
I said that I would reflect on one of the top news stories of the day and, unfortunately and sadly, there are two stories today which relate to how people have been abused and mistreated. In one the victims were women and girls, in the other it was boys in a school. Both stories (one is reporting on a verdict, the other relates to an ongoing investigation) refer to people in positions of power exploiting that to take advantage of others.
When we look at the life of Jesus we see something very different.
In Matthew 19:13-15 there is a story of parents seeking to bring children to Jesus so that he might bless them and pray for them. His followers try and stop this (presumably thinking that Jesus had more important things to do) but Jesus intervenes and makes it clear that children are very important to him, and to God’s kingdom, and blesses them.
In a society where women were very much second-class citizens, Jesus spends time speaking with them (e.g. John 4) and defending them (e.g. John 8:1-11). They were included among his group of followers (Luke 8:1-3) and were witnesses of his resurrection (e.g. Matthew 28:5-6).
We see Jesus healing the sick, speaking to the oppressed, giving comfort to the suffering and raising the dead.
In these, and other, situations we see Jesus seeing each person as important and valued and special. And this is hardly surprising as each one was made in the image of God. I love the story where two blind men are brought to Jesus, and Jesus, not presuming on what they want, asks what he can do for them (Matthew 20:29-34). What a great demonstration of the way in which Jesus treated the vulnerable with dignity and respect.
Jesus had power and authority on a scale that those in today’s news stories couldn’t imagine but he didn’t use it for his own ends, rather he laid it aside and came into this world to be a blessing to those in need. The apostle Paul spells this out in Philippians chapter 2 where he speaks about Jesus:
- Sharing in God’s nature and being equal with God (Philippians 2:6)
- Being prepared to leave that behind and live as a servant (Philippians 2:7)
- To be obedient to God even when that meant him dying on a cross (Philippians 2:8)
and in Philippians 2:5, Paul calls on the Philippian disciples to have the same attitude as Jesus did.
And so the question which this raises is how do we relate to other people in general and, in particular, how do we relate to those over whom we have some form of authority?
The model of Jesus is one of love, respect, care and service. The question I need to reflect on is how I follow that example in the relationships which I am part of.
And what a difference would it make if this model was lived out in our neighbourhoods, in our schools, in our workplaces, in our families, in our churches, in our legal system, in our government, in our media and wherever people engaged with others.