HOW MANY HUMAN PERSONS find themselves imprisoned and bound by other people’s stories, other people’s temples, other people’s “safe houses”, other people’s notions of right or wrong or truth?
The Church endeavours perfectly properly to follow the pattern of Jesus in seeking after truth. But where does truth reside? Is truth vested in one story, one faith, one man, one experience of God? Is truth a pre-packaged product, something fabricated in what Archbishop Rowan described last Sunday in Rome as a ‘religion factory‘. Or does Jesus’ Manifesto For A New Society (a lovely sub-title in Alison Morgan’s The Wild Gospel) point to different facets of truth in different individuals? Alison Morgan writes:
[Jesus] was not found standing on soapboxes in Tiberias and Sepphoris, or demanding audiences in the palaces of Jerusalem and Caesarea, or seeking election to the Council of the Sanhedrin. Rather he was found speaking to individuals whenever and wherever he encountered them – in their homes, on their sickbeds, at their tables, in the street, in the fields, in the synagogue; out on the lake as they fished, and by the well as they drew water.
Of what then did he speak to these individuals? The astonishing answer is that to each one he spoke the truth. And that for each one, the truth was different, because it penetrated differently into the untruth by which they were bound.
I suggest that Jesus assaulted the norms of his culture not as an end in itself, but in order to reach out to individuals within the culture, to shake the faulty foundations on which they were building their lives, and to issue a new challenge for thinking and living. He ministered into the culture, but for the individual – ibid page 83
Other people’s stories, temples, manifestos and laws are intended as good and necessary frameworks in which individuals can learn to live in community. But we do well to remember that whilst Jesus frequently criticised culture he offered only love and encouragement to individuals – he recognised brokenness in all human persons and consistently called forth acceptance, compassion, healing and restoration in them and in all creation.
SET FREE the distinctive giftedness and grace in the glorious multiplicity and diversity of human persons individually – male and female, of every creed and race – and you release the highest and the best raw materials for building up community. That, indeed, in this 21st century, is a Manifesto For A New Society.