So how do we, can we, react in the face of the appalling atrocities committed by ISIS?
On first sight it seems to me we have a series of ‘human’ choices ranging from passive stoicism to demonisation of all who representatives of other faiths and world views, irrespective of their own participation, or non participation, in fostering the escalation of violence and hatred.
These are the easy options, they allow us to trade on our own emotions, ‘sanctifying’ either the alpha or beta stereotypes. They don’t help and they are spiritually unhealthy. They permit the widening of unhealthy spiritual space between ourselves and others. They create the security (and spiritual superiority) of in groups at the expense of the outsider. They add to the pile of captives and refugees; the very people who Christ came to set free. Jesus came from the Jews but as we declare each time we sing evensong he was also a light to the gentiles (and that means you and me!).
Jesus is a porous and leaky saviour.
The genius of passive stoicism and demonisation, by contrast, is that they both remove the requirement to be ‘agents of grace.’
For Christians neither of these extremes carries biblical warrant for, we are called upon to be active agents of grace, mercy and peace – as the opening lines of the Church of England liturgy reminds us each week. Okay, but how does this help you might ask?
Well, the one thing we can do is commit to the widening of spiritual space in the communities where we are graced to live and serve. We can commit to allowing the Spirit, through our attitudes and behaviour, to shape communities characterised by grace, mercy and peace.
This will mean allowing our communities to be constantly re-shaped by those who we perceive as different, perhaps even as less worthy (is there too much Pharisee and not enough tax collector / publican in most of us?)
The implication is that we must allow the Spirit to constantly challenge that which we hold to be true, whilst trusting that the Spirit will also continually strengthen in us the real truths of faith.
Jesus frequently urged those who he had touched to stay put and reflect on the grace they had directly experienced. I suspect his (divine) hope was that, in time, such geographically located followers would lead vibrant Christian communities, ones with leaky and porous boundaries, communities characterised by the divine attributes of ‘grace, mercy and peace.’ Communities where the outsider, captive and refugee experience the hospitality of Christ and, so enthused, say to others:
‘Come this is a place of real acceptance and love.’
How committed are we to creating vibrant and leaky Christian communities?