Skip to main content

Bearing one another's burdens

At the end of a week of political turmoil, even those of us allied to the losing side will welcome the establishment of a government that can do what governments should do: govern. But, while we in the UK have been holding our breath, the rest of Europe has been rushing forward into an uncertain future.

‘Events’, the worst enemy of many a politician, have gone ahead of the Clameron administration, staking out its course: deficit reduction, fiscal constraint, cuts, cuts, and more cuts. Oh, and a few tax rises – National Insurance, probably VAT, corporation tax. “The British Prime Minister,” wrote civil rights activist James Baldwin in 1980, “is a grotesque anachronism, and the world is not holding its breath waiting to see what will happen in England; England's future will be determined by what is happening in the world.” His rhetorical point was this: even great states can not be isolated from external events, and their sphere of activity in which they hope to act to shape their common life can not be defended from external forces which supersede the power of the nation state.

Consider the plight of the Greeks. Protest they might (though not many of them actually are), but their own government’s economic plans are not now at the bidding of the voters, but of the German government, the IMF and the European Central Bank who between them have created finance facilities of nearly one trillion dollars. This will enable ailing European governments (the ‘Greek’ bailout is not for Greece alone, but for Spain , Portugal , Ireland ), to borrow from other sources than the cautious bond markets. Those funding the bailout will bear great risk, and so the quid pro quo is that they get a hand on the tiller of economic policy.

Sovereignty is the price of economic survival. European Commission President Jose Barroso said, "Economic policy isn't a national, but a European matter. No modern economy is an island. When a member state doesn't make reforms, others suffer because of that." On the other hand, it’s not surprising that many in the UK are breathing a sigh of relief that we’re not part of the euro-area.

There’s an analogy here – and perhaps something more than an analogy – worth reflecting on. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ”, wrote Paul to the Galatians (6.2). Yet even in the church, it is common to prefer a semi-detachment similar to Britain ’s relationship with Europe . We like to form the associations and friendships which are convenient or felicitous, not those that have the potential to slow us down or inveigh against personal freedoms. We valorise the prospect of living in Christian community, but recoil from – if not ignore – the demands of its reality. When did you last personally give money to someone in your church in need? Have you rejected the opportunity to spend time with a valued friend in order to spend it with a lonely, but difficult, church member? Have you ever been humble enough to ask a brother or sister to bear your burden with you?

If you are like me, then you will find community to be a difficult vocation. As a mild and un-ideological euro-sceptic, observing an unfolding crisis, I am reflecting on what this might mean for transnational relationships. Is it possible that we would ever be asked to form bonds that do not serve the national interest? And is shared self-interest the only basis for political and economic community?

Paul Bickley, Senior Researcher, Theos – the public theology think thank

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

When God turns a deaf ear on prayers

Does God always hear people’s prayers, or do some pray in vain thinking that God hears them, when in reality He chooses to turn a deaf hear to their cries? Some may perhaps have a notion that all prayers are worthy, and God being who He is is by nature willing to listen and hear their prayers delightfully. They entertain the notion that it is their birth right for God to listen to their prayers and answer them accordingly. Also, there are some who come before the presence of the Lord with severe doubts, defeated by the devils whisper that they are such an unworthy soul that for them to lift up their cries to the Lord is an abomination. They are mute by their own wickedness, depressed and thus fail to pray.

What does the scripture say about God turning a deaf hear to prayers? It is to be said that God is sovereign and can choose to answer any prayer as He sees fit. He is altogether happy and never backed into a corner, God always does whatever He pleases for He is free to do as He wills…

What does it mean to live a godly life?

If you ever asked yourself the question, what does it mean to live a godly life? and if your not exactly sure what living a godly life involves, this extract taking from Charles Seet book 'A Christian in a non-Christian world' provides ample guidance on just what to do.

Now it is worth asking the question then, 'What does it mean to live godly?' It does not mean that we are just to confine ourselves within a set of rules and regulations. Some people reduce godly living to a list of 'do’s and don'ts.' But the meaning of godly living goes far deeper than that.

Godly living means living in the manner that God wants us to live. It means having the same feelings, attitudes and heart's desires that God has. It means that we love the things that God loves, care for the things that God cares for, and dislike those things which He dislikes. And since God loves righteousness, a godly person also loves righteousness. Since God hates sin, a godly person also hates …

Women of the Bible: Adah and Zillah

The Sin of Adam and Eve resulted in the fall of humanity. Every generation after them became wicked and that is why scripture affirms, ‘that there is no one righteous, no, not even one.’ Mankind became enslave to the passions of its flesh, its desires became its ruler and men followed the natural dictates of their hearts; and were it not for Sovereign grace, the race of men would now only be read of by angels in the library of extinct creatures. Adam and Eve witnessed the consequences of their sin in the death of their beloved son, Abel, by the hands of Cain who murdered his brother in anger and was thus sent away from the presence of God. My dear sisters, sin is not only sin when it is found in its extremes, sin is also sin in its subtlety and vanity. Sin is sin when one's affection is set on another and not on God, when one lives to please a thing or a being which is not God; this is also sin.
This becomes especially evident in the lives of Adah and Zillah the wives of Lamech. Th…