July/August 2013: On the Edge of Time

Many years ago I had a record (yes, made out of vinyl, and actually, I still have it, but the player isn't hooked up) called 'Warrior on the Edge of Time' by Hawkwind. I really liked the idea of being 'on the edge of time,' and I still do. Everything we do now, today, on the edge of time, influences what will happen next. The pressures that affect us in life today are the result of the decisions of generations of others who have gone before us - not least, people like Jesus. Bad people also influence us, of course, and often they didn't realise their influence would be seen that way by later generations.

Camperdown

Fashions, attitudes and expectations evolve over time, as people make decisions that influence their future. Once, it was necessary for people to be stoned for certain kinds of crime. Trial by fire or by drowning were commonly accepted in some centuries and places. Alms for the poor turned into social services. Slavery was made illegal in some places, after much controversy - and sadly is yet to be eradicated. Issues of respect such as wearing headcoverings in church turn into tradition, lose their moral meaning, and are finally forgotten. Divorce was a major issue for the Church as a whole in the twentieth century, but is now more generally accepted, as prolonging suffering is seen to be unloving. The roles of women and men in society and in church are still changing, and I am pleased to say that Churches of Christ have generally been leaders in accepting women in ministry and leadership. The clash between evolution and 7-day creation is increasingly seen as more apparent than real, as the languages of mechanics and meaning are better able to be distinguished.

Today, on the edge of time, a new major question is before the Church. Differing sexual orientations are becoming recognised as not simply a matter of choice, but rather the result of 'built-in' differences. How then should we deal with our understanding of God as continuing loving creator of all that is, yet also as inspirer of scriptures that decry same-sex relationships? If sexual intimacy is the jewel of a committed relationship between two people, how can we say that some may not have this experience on account of the way they are made?

We mostly stopped training left-handers to write with their right hand decades ago - and we happily re-marry divorcees - is this any different? Of course it is different, in many ways - but in the end, if the loving creator God brings some to life with different sexual orientations, who are we to say it is a mistake?

The question is still open in our day. I suspect generations to come will look at this issue of today rather like we look back at the Suffragettes and other society-changing movements of the past such as that which ended slavery in the British Empire. It will all seem so obvious! Yet at the time, the decisions were far from easy to make, and leaders suffered for their efforts. So it is today and always, at the sharp edge of time. Talking to legalistic people of his time, Jesus more than once told them to go and look up Hosea 6:6: "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice..."

May the Church be once more a leader in times of change. Above all let us proclaim Jesus, the evidence of God's transforming love for all creation. Let us preach the exciting coming of God's Kingdom in which people are set free from oppression. Let us do these things, rather than being known for hypocrisy, for judging others over their behaviour. -- Steve


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