Find me somebody to…


A week or so ago, in the wake of the marriage amendment bill being passed, my good friend Rowan (that’s him) made a post on facebook. Without really laying his cards on the table, he acknowledged what an emotional journey the debate had been for both sides. To the ‘winners’ he said,
For those who are now able to marry, congratulations! Marriage is a beautiful thing and I pray that you honor the vows that you make and can experience love in a deeper and stronger way, that you always stray from use of power and control in your relationship and that you continue to call and inspire others to a deeper love, faithfulness and commitment. I pray that you would remember what it felt like to be excluded and that you would stand up for equality as you have in this debate, not only for sexual preference, but also amongst races, ethnicities and socioeconomic status. 

To the ‘defeated’, he wrote,
For those who are struggling to accept these changes and who feel like their beliefs have been mocked or their own marriage has been degraded, I pray that this loss will not become bitterness or resentment, but that you will be able to have the strength to forgive the mockers, and to let go of the names that you have been called. I pray that you will stand with the same passion against poverty and oppression and that you will call for social and environmental justice with the same vibrant and unswerving commitment.

I was challenged by the way Rowan invited each group to turn their attention and energy to something that is undoubtedly evil, and to fight against it with ‘the same vibrant and unswerving commitment’. Except we won’t, I realised. And why not? This got me thinking.

The sexuality debate is contentious. I know faithful, sincere Christians who are on either side of the issue, and an ever increasing bunch in the middle. I also know complete idiots on each side. We might be tempted to doubt that Christians who believe differently to us aren’t the real deal. But I think they might be.

And yet, the argument over poverty and oppression is more straightforward. In fact its not much of an argument at all. I don’t know anyone who is ‘Pro-poverty’. Nor do I know anyone who is for bonded child labour, or the sex slave trade. These people may exist, but not in my world.

So why are we able to muster such energy and vigour for something that could be described as a ‘line-call’ (Oh so you’re one of those fence sitters then are you Malcs?), and yet we are embarrassingly apathetic on what is a no-brainer?

In this moment, we reveal that we need enemies. We need someone to oppose us in order to be motivated. We are not as strongly for things as we are against things. It means we are inherently antagonistic, looking for a fight, because a ‘fight’ makes us feel alive. It gives us strength. When someone disagrees with us, it gives us someone to ridicule, a perspective we can build our own against. Its like resistance training I guess. We thrive on opposition.

Conversely, there are no supporters of child poverty in my world. Consequently there is no battle to fight. Tragically, this leaves me with no will to do anything at all, about something we all know is corrupt, unnecessary and (probably) solvable.

When you think a little deeper about this, it actually means we are at the mercy of the people who disagree with us in order to determine what we will care about, and what we will fight for. If we only find strength when there is opposition, then we are no longer making decisions for ourselves, we are letting the very people we hate decide what we are going to stand up for. Which is at best ironic.

This brings me to Jesus, who seemed to reorientate the whole idea of ‘enemies’. In fact, he did so much damage to the concept as to potentially cripple it for good. We Christians, are to love our enemies. A logical argument might go, ‘But if I love them, they won’t be my enemy any longer’. To which Jesus would probably reply, ‘Exactly’.

It seems to me that Jesus is inviting us out of world where we are ‘over and against’ things; a ‘don’t do that, put that down’ theology. And into a world where we are profoundly and passionately for things, like justice, compassion, dignity, wholeness and grace. It seems to me that Jesus would like us to grow out of our need for enemies to show us what is right, because if we can’t, we will forever be hating someone who bears the image of God, someone Jesus is eventually going to ask us to love.

Can we surrender our love of having enemies and develop a love for enemies? Can we surrender our need of enemies, and find a new way to define ourselves? Rather than by the people who are against but by a God who is for us? Can we find a way of standing for the ways of Jesus and the world God has for us, without needing someone to hate or oppose along the way? Can our motivation be love and only love?

At this moment, my answer is a sad ‘no’. But it is also a quietly hopeful, ‘but I want it to be.’

  • Howard Carter

    I too value Rowans graciousness and his call to focus on what is really important.

    I wonder if one of the reasons we don’t get the care and concern about issues like child poverty is because we actually have to realise that just maybe… we are the enemy here… our affluent western lifestyle just may need be where we make changes if things are actually going to change.

    April 26, 2013
    • So it may be guilt that keeps us silent? Which Jesus would surely want us to be free from so we could act justly. I think you may be right Howard, and the need to abandon ‘enemy’ language and living is no less important – even when we’re the bad guy!

      April 26, 2013
  • PatriciaOverall

    Now that is thought provoking!

    April 26, 2013
    • I know – its had me stewing for some time!

      April 26, 2013
  • ian pittendreigh

    Good morning Malcolm – Your and Rowans comments on the current decision in parliament and how we respond to that and other issues made me think – Firstly a ‘line call’? It’s no more a line call than prostitution, pornography, incest or polygamy (which will most likely be the next marriage amendment bill) shall we say ‘congratulations’ then? Marriage can only be between one man and one woman, there’s never been exceptions. It’s a no brainer.
    Enemies? We were told that our enemies would even be members of our own families and that Jesus came to bring not peace but a sword. Jesus warns us of the dangers and difficulties in being his followers – Truth against lies, a narrow road not a broad one, light against darkness. This doesn’t remove the command to love our enemies which will convert some into being friends, but not all.
    Regarding poverty and injustice – in my experience Christians are very concerned on these issues and I can’t think of one who isn’t involved with Tear Fund, World Vision (or another in an extremely long list). Many of these organizations work hard to try and get the media interested – can we presume it’s not sexy enough for coverage? Now if someone in parliament tried to put a bill through saying poverty or child slavery is ok, the voice might be heard – complaining Christians again? That was the experience of Wilberforce in his generation.
    If it’s a question of language, how we phrase what we are for as opposed to what we are against it comes down to the same result – a yes to marriage between a man and a woman means…….
    God bless.

    April 30, 2013
    • Hi Ian, thanks for your thoughtful response. My comment about the debate being a ‘line call’ was more a statement about the fact that good Christians are on either side of the debate, rather than a declaration of my own perspective (which is still forming). My post was less about the debate itself (and the rightness or wrongness of the decision) and more about the manner in which Christian’s conducted themselves. While I see your point that there are many avenues to work towards equality and against injustice, I simply don’t see them being pursued with the same vigour as the debate around gay marriage. I think the more contentious the issue, the more energy it creates, and that inevitably means we’ll be defined by what we oppose. I still feel God calls us into a world where we can be FOR things without needing enemies to justify ourselves. My post was less about what marriage means, and more about how we live with one another and communicate our faith in and to the real world. Again, thanks for making this conversation an interesting one!

      April 30, 2013
  • ian pittendreigh

    Evening Malcolm – you are probably right that you don’t see the same vigour in a Christian response to other issues as has been evident over same sex marriage. I do think the main reason is that there is not a vocal group trying to bring into legislation things that we would find abhorrent. I do also know that when Christians and others marched en masse (in the UK) to draw attention to poverty and the debt of developing nations the media were conspicuous by their absence though it did impact the government (perhaps because the then chancellor of the exchequor had been brought up in a Presbyterian manse) and government policy changed. So there is hope and things/people can change, that good news for me (an unfinished work) and may I venture to say good news for you?



    April 30, 2013
    • You certainly may say so! Here’s to hope and change!

      April 30, 2013
  • Andrea Grant

    Listening to some Pink Floyd last night made me think of this post. Their song “On the turning away” is powerful/mournful perhaps of the way we generally ignore the “weak and the weary”, whether that be the millions in poverty or the ones struggling with life for whatever reason. Find it here:

    Thanks for the post Malcs

    May 3, 2013
    • Thanks Andrea, I’ve not had much exposure to Pink Floyd, so this will be a purposeful intro. Thanks for the link.

      May 3, 2013

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.