The referendum is done and the decision has been made. However we felt about it, however passionately we campaigned the decision has been made and there is nothing we can do about it.
Now we have to set about the act of living after the referendum and after the campaign. This was certainly a debate that got people talking and certainly got people moving. The question now is how do we move forward from that. There is no going back to normal. The opinions and ideas expressed are not going to simply vanish because one side lost and one side won.
This is where I am glad that I wasn’t called to a life in politics, I would not want to be responsible for working out how we reunite our country, plan our exit from the EU and begin to tackle some of the issues that were raised in our campaign.
For people on both sides of the debate the decision to leave has, I think come as a bit of a shock.
Many in the remain camp may wish that we could be like James and John, who when they encountered people whose attitude they didn’t like thought it might be a good idea to command fire from heaven to consume them! I am not sure whether they were really able to command fire from heaven, it is not something the gospels tell us that the disciples or Jesus did with any frequency or in fact at all. But I do love the fact that they thought they could. Jesus, however, was more resigned to the differences of opinion and didn’t seem to think fire was a good idea, and neither does the Church of England. Our Archbishops have issued reconciliatory statements encouraging unity and working together, many of the traits that the remain campaign thought they were fighting for.
Difference of opinion is a fact of life. The samaritans refused to welcome Jesus because he was headed for the wrong mountain. They insisted that God was to be found on Mt Gerizim, but Jesus was headed for Mount Zion.
No matter how we voted in the referendum it is important that we now find a way to stop heading in separate directions and all start heading the same way lest we risk rejecting Jesus because he is headed on a different road.
Galatians makes it clear that as christians we are free to choose our behaviour, we are not under the law any more, no longer slaves told what to do and when to do it, but in fact free, free to worship God whenever we like, free to eat what ever we like and free from the ritualistic rites for purity.
However because we are free to behave however we want it doesn’t mean that we should behave however we want. Galatians suggests that we should in fact remake ourselves as slaves, not slaves to the law anymore but in fact to each other. And this is an important message, no matter how we voted we are now called to put our own wishes aside and work together for the good of our nation. It would be a shame if all the passion and enthusiasm that went into the debate was not now available for the good of our nation. Galatians warns of the consequences of those who continue to bite and devour one another – that they end up consumed by one another.
So we are offered another way, the way of the gospel is the way of service, of living by the spirit. As we live by the spirit more and more so our desires become more in line with those of God and less in line with the ‘flesh’.
The list of sins of the flesh indicative rather than exhaustive, it indicates the worst of things that we might fall into if we lose our focus on the things of the spirit. each of us will have our own particular ones that we fall back into, be it jealousy or envy; anger and quarrels; factions and dissections; or maybe some of the more juicy ones like fornication or licentiousness. There are a few important things to notice about this list –
it is not hierarchal – the sins that we might only know about ourselves such as our jealous feelings or our anger are listed equal with the more obvious sins such as fornication or anger. Deeds of action are no different from deeds of thought or attitude.
it is not a list of does and don’ts – we are free to make our own choices that is what freedom means. Freedom doesn’t mean that our choices are consequent free! An alternative reading of the passage makes the consequences clear….
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time:repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic–show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all–consuming–yet–never–satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small–minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on
Many of these traits have been present in the referendum campaign and even more so in the back lash that the leave vote has caused.
Our response to these things is that we want to keep as far away from them possible, and one of the ways we do that is by staying in community and worshipping together. Being part of a worshipping community can be good for you even if you don’t believe – according to some research….
Being part of this worshipping community will make you more willing to look out for your neighbour, to volunteer your time for the church, or a charity or for your friends. Worshipping together does make us better people. I call this the work of the spirit in our lives, the fruit of the spirit listed after the list of the fruit of the flesh calls is to those good things.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
A list that is worth reading , a list that is worth learning, old school memorising because it is a list of ways that each of us would like to be described. We want to be considered loving, or patience or generous.
As I get older I value kindness more and more.
All these values and attitudes are the ones that are going to help both sides move our country forward, both locally and nationally. Those who won need to be generous in their success and those who need to have patience and self-control to have faith that their voice may still be heard.
So as we as a nation live with the consequences of our vote and learn to live a new way. Let us as a community be inspired to care of each other and to live by the spirit, not risking missing Jesus because are transfixed on our own obsession but by offering our own lives in the service or slavery of others.