How to Love Britain, Practically
What does it look like to show love to our nation, day by day?
The reckless love of the Gospel
Showing reckless love often doesn’t appear ‘reckless’, because love is focussed on others, not the hoopla surrounding yourself. I believe that reckless love often means looking to very deliberately do the Christlike things that the rest of our culture neither desires nor attempts. We have to be different – not through oddity but through integrity to our message; the Gospel which is so radically different to all other worldviews.
Reckless love means showing the Gospel to be as it is.
Amongst students, I often find myself loving by listening. Our universities are filled with those who are slow to listen and quick to speak, and in reckless, self-denying silence, we do well to give others the platform to be heard, understood and valued.
Hospitality and practical help
Our God is a God of the lost. The lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost peoples who have never heard the gospel of grace. In modern Britain we find ourselves in the midst of the lost nations. These people are seeking a better world for their children and a better life for themselves. More than 11% of our population has been born overseas. A quarter of births in the UK are to mothers who were born overseas. Many of these people have never heard the good news in their country of origin. God is bringing the nations to us.
On one occasion I sat for an hour over a cup of tea with a man who was studying English for three months, hoping to get into university. I was fascinated as he explained to me about the Kurdish people, his people. It was such a blessing for me to understand his life from his perspective.
We need to be learners. Instead of just taking courses on different religions within the confines of our church buildings, we need to spend more time asking our neighbours about themselves. Go for a walk with them and ask them questions; about their life, family, dreams, heritage, traditions. Get to know them.
Our then director of ministry to the Farsi-speaking community, Reza, challenged me to use this learning time to find out how to really help people practically. He said, “Unless they see God’s love practically, they will not sit and listen to us speak about God’s word.”
We need to be able to communicate in a way that is natural to people. Did you know that two-thirds of the world is either illiterate or prefers to learn orally? They learn through stories, songs, proverbs, poetry and chants. Yet most sharing of the gospel uses literate means which are not understood or well received.
One thing I notice about some business consultants is that they are forever giving stuff away. By contrast we have all experienced those professionals who slap a charge on you at the slightest excuse. Rather like trying not to twitch at an auction, you dare not ask a question lest the answer arrives with a bill. We often hear that “time is money”, and that is how the raw capitalist machine thinks, but as soon as my time has become a commodity, I have given away my humanity. The alternative, of course, may seem a little reckless. In these difficult economic times, do we not have to tighten the belt and be realistic? If being realistic means charging and accounting for every six minutes of my time, and never giving anything away, then I think not. Jesus is generous to the core, and his followers should be too. Just one of the slightly reckless ways we need to challenge the status quo and model an alternative lifestyle. How else will the business world come to see that Jesus has something distinctive on offer? I doubt if the cost to us will be as high as the price he paid.
Listening and prayer
For me ‘loving my neighbour’ means responding to their needs and pointing them to Jesus. I’ve found that one of the best ways to show love is to take time to really LISTEN to people one-on-one. Sometimes God gives us opportunity to pray with them. This happened recently with my friend Sarah.
I was with Sarah one evening and I sensed that things weren’t quite right. She didn’t quite seem her normal sparkly self. She mentioned that she hadn’t been sleeping well. She made some critical comments about her daughter which was unlike her. I wondered what was really going on.
I asked her about her sleep problems and then she opened up about her daughter. She told me about a letter her daughter had written to her which had left her very hurt. I spent a long time listening to my friend pour out her pain. We talked about confronting her daughter which Sarah felt she couldn’t do. She didn’t want to see her and couldn’t forgive her either.
I felt the Holy Spirit whispering ‘blessed are the peacemakers’. I told her how God had helped me to forgive someone and how forgiving them had released the pain and bitterness inside me. Then I stepped out of my comfort zone and offered to pray with her. Sarah isn’t very pro God but she said yes. I prayed a few simple words asking Jesus to help her deal with the pain, forgive and restore the relationship with her daughter. When I looked up she had tears in her eyes and said ‘thank you’. A few weeks later she told me the rift hadn’t been completely healed but things are better. I’m still praying for Sarah and she knows that.