by Trevor Bates.
Given that the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries saw the European ‘empire style’ outreach in trading patterns enabled the Christian Churches of European lands to establish themselves among people of different ethnic and cultural lifestyles in far-flung lands, some of whom responded to the Gospel of Christ:
And given that the 21st century of economic globalisation and instability has brought about a movement of peoples to live in communities of diversity searching for safety and security, which are quite unique for Britain:
And given that people of different faiths and varying religious traditions are manifesting diverse patterns of human living – in terms of empathy, caring, endeavour, and celebration, in their new settings, sufficient to hint at an emerging cosmopolitan world:
What is God doing with us?
Where is Christ in the midst of this vortex of change?
What is the living God saying to us as Christians?
WHAT IS GOD DOING WITH US?
Wilfred Cantwell Smith argues that: ‘All human history is Heilsgeschichte (salvation history). Not Israel’s only, either the old or the new, but the history of every religious community. [And] This has always been true: although we are the first generation of Christians to see this seriously and corporately, and to be able to respond to the vision.’[i] This insight should give Christians renewed confidence to proclaim that history should be seen as ‘the arena of divine actions,’ and realise that the Christian communities in Britain and Europe are being prompted to respond in new ways to our present unique time.
In the overall scheme of things have we come to a ‘wind of change’ period in the history of humanity? As we search to blend together as an extended family of peoples, all the faith communities of our time are surely challenged to manifest their spiritual resources by nurturing the basic values and inner resources of resilience, strength and gratitude, and to spell out in everyday living God’s new purpose for our world. Indeed are not all people of faith being invited together to rejoice in God’s passionate and compassionate dynamic initiatives to fashion a new kind of cosmopolitan world?
WHERE IS CHRIST IN THIS VORTEX OF CHANGE?
If, as Clive Marsh suggests,[ii] the incarnate action of God is recognisable in the ‘Jesus patterns’ of compassionate human interaction, forgiveness, reconciliation and mutual respect as the Christian tradition proclaims, should we then be surprised to find these Christlike patterns in ‘communities of practice’ are being lived out elsewhere outside the paradigm of the Christian Church and community? Are they not to be discovered in the ‘everyday world’ and in the communities of other faiths, and therefore acknowledged and applauded as heraldic signs of the Spirit at work in our time?
WHAT IS GOD SAYING TO US AS CHRISTIANS?
However, as long as our diverse and cosmopolitan world cries out for God’s social justice to be given the highest of priorities to counter the evils of prejudice, suspicion, mistrust and greed then the Kingdom harmony of relationships will never be fully realised. Therefore, as family members of the community of Christ is God challenging us to make bold and adventurous moves to invite across the thresholds of our places of identity and belonging the people of other faiths, in gestures of hospitality and welcome? And in turn are we willing to cross their thresholds of belonging and identity, to ‘take off our shoes’ in humility and respect with gestures of namaste (meaning: ‘I bow to the God within you, and the Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you’) in ventures of loving and lasting friendship?
Can Christians come alert to their contemporary commission from God? Is it possible for the dignity and spiritual worth of the human person to find centre stage both in the world of employment and in the spheres of local and world cosmopolitan community such as Christ longs for and as Jesus proclaimed in his own manifesto, that is Luke 4: 16-19?
[i] ‘Wilfred Cantwell Smith – A Reader – ed. by Kenneth Cracknell (2001), p.200
[ii] : Christ in Practice by Clive Marsh (2006), p22-23