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To be “a flawed saint” – now there’s an ambition!

July 2, 2016

I’m nervous and excited all at the same time. Why? ‘Change’ – that’s why!

Change is here in all sorts of forms. There is political change in the air. What will leaving the EU end up looking like? Who will lead us out? Who will lead the opposition? Will there even be an opposition? At least there is a now a period of calm. Nothing will happen in a hurry. But is this the calm that leads to a beautiful future, or is it the calm before the storm? I know so many people who are anxious and afraid. Sadly, that fear is turning some hard and unfeeling; aggressive even to any they see as a threat or just different.

I read the news and hear that this fear and hardening of the heart has led some to be hostile to Eastern Europeans living and working here. It is like the start of a civil war. Neighbours who got along fine are now the target of hostility. Family friends are being shunned at the corner shop and outside of school. This is certainly not England’s finest hour!

I look inside of myself and I find some fear too. It seems to lurk there waiting for a time to strike. Perhaps I’m worn out, and stressed, then I’m faced with that difficult person – the one person I really didn’t want to see. My more noble emotions are spent and my fear sees the power vacuum, sees its chance and jumps in. I react defensively not compassionately; I say the hurtful things that may stop the person but certainly do not build them up – certainly do not show Christ and his kingdom. I become captive to the old kingdom once again. The kingdom that is already a lie, that is already on its way out: In short I fall.

Or at least that is the real danger. Thankfully, Christ is in me and the Spirit seems to bring me round quickly. So far, he has always been able to stop me before my tongue does any real damage (Cf. James 3.1-12). When I do react wrongly, He gives me the strength and the humility to say ‘sorry’ – such a hard word to say. As the Spirit refills my reserves of love, the fear goes or at least reduces, and I’m more able to see the person not my fears (Cf. 1 John 4.18); I am more able to be loving, compassionate, patient and kind.

That brings me to one of my heroes – Thomas the Apostle. Often called ‘Doubting Thomas’ and relegated to a lesson from failure (John 20.24-29). He’s a hero to me because in Thomas I see a man that I can follow. He failed like another of my heroes Peter, who denied Jesus. Those heroes make me smile. They give me hope. Not hope for the easy times, such hope is everywhere, such hope is cheap. No Thomas and Peter give me hope for the hard times, the times when I am overwhelmed by life – and there are many. Most of all stories like the doubting of Thomas give me hope for when I fail, for when I doubt, for when I question what God is doing. More accurately, it is how Jesus deals with Thomas (and Peter) that gives that hope. Jesus, accepted their failures. Jesus accepts mine and transforms those failures.

So, I look at Thomas and I see a flawed saint. A saint who failed but who Jesus redeemed. I see a saint for my country in its current hour of need. I can follow a flawed saint, I may even be able to be one! So might those who are fearful now, those who are failing their neighbour, who are hating the stranger. Through Thomas Jesus tells me that there is hope even for them. There is hope. They too can be flawed saints.

To be a “a flawed saint” – now there’s an ambition!

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