This week is marked by many as “Mental Health Awareness” week. I, for one, am glad that during this week there are people who are openly speaking about mental health and are challenging the social stigma that has been placed on these issues. As I drove into work this morning, I was listening to a fascinating piece on the radio about our poor sleep patterns in this country and their link to mental health and wellbeing. As I finished listening to the piece on sleep, it felt a little ironic to then listen to a piece on problems in the Middle East and North Korea. If anything would deprive me of sleep, it’s those two situations!
I found myself reflecting on human beings.
Humanity is, in the words of the Psalmist, fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139 vs. 14). We are a complex creation of mind, body and soul. We can be emotional, caring, creative and incredibly destructive.
I thought about the many ways in humanity has sought to make life better for itself. We have endeavoured to find political answers, which have gone horribly wrong. The old cliché rings true; In capitalism man exploits man, in communism it is the other way round. Even the best of intentioned can get lured by power and prestige. I thought about the charities and humanitarian solutions that have been offered, only to be reminded of their, recent, heart breaking scandals.
In my time of reflection, I read some words of Jesus;
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
(John 17 vs. 15)
I remember, a few years ago, hearing an interview with a mega-church pastor from America. He described his “Church-complex” that included a shopping mall, health centre, medical facilities, gymnasium and even a hairdressers. He finished his interview by saying “none of my people need to go into the world for anything”. I have never felt such anger as I felt at that moment! (I even typed that paragraph angrily).
God does not separate Himself from the mess of humanity but, in Jesus Christ, embraces what it means to be fully human. He then pays the price for human mess on the cross. His resurrection is the ultimate in life transformation and hope.
I believe that the gospel that we have to share is one of transformation for the world now and in the age to come. The gospel is not just “pie in the sky when you die”, it’s about transforming the world in which we live. If you like, eternal life begins this side of glory. That is what the Church is called to live!
Yes, the Church is flawed. Yes, the Church gets things wrong and make mistakes. But, a Church that separates itself from the world, is a church that is not living the gospel.
But Jesus prays something else in this verse. He prays, that we would be protected from the evil one. This led me to think about whether or not I always recognize the presence of the evil one. In the world we see so much hurt and pain that it’s easy to point the finger and say “that is evil”.
However, evil and the presence of evil it not always “out there”. Sometimes, it’s very much “in here”. Let me explain what I mean by that. Evil can be a very subtle, manipulative thing. Do I always recognize the presence of evil in my life, my heart? How often do I give into the pressure to “be somebody important”? How often do I trade servant leadership for power? My ways for God’s ways?
Sometimes, I need to remember when I point the finger at somebody else and declare “that is evil” there are three pointing back at me!
My prayer today is that God would help me to recognize the presence of evil in my own heart and bring it to Him so that I can experience His forgiveness and renewing love. What about you?