Yep, another 12 months has flown by. The world is full of new people, and is missing others that are no longer with us. There’s happiness and joy, sadness and sorrow, trouble and fear, hope and excitement.
My message this year is going to take a serious note…
This year there’s been a huge amount of discussion in the media relating to the part that religions of all styles play in the challenges facing the world today. The issue of how to address the threat from ISIS/IS/Daesh has caused deep rifts in certain countries between the Muslims and non-Muslims. The Middle East has been torn apart, not just by IS, but by the civil war in Syria, the resurgence of the Taliban, and the never-ending problems in Israel and Gaza. Throughout Africa, atrocities are being committed in the name of one God or other. In France, in Tunisia, in Egypt, and in the US, we’ve seen the terrible consequences that result.
Our newsfeeds are literally awash with stories of a massive migration away from the most trouble-torn areas of the world, raising questions and debate as to how we manage such an influx of people, whilst still upholding Government’s elected mandate in all European countries to protect the electorate.
I wish there were some simple answers – or even some complex ones – to these issues. Sadly, I suspect there may not be one for some time.
However, I do have one thing above all that I want to stress. As a Christian, the thought that anyone could use God as a justification for killing is abhorrent. And anyone that does – well, it’s clearly a religion thing rather than a faith thing. There’s a big difference between the two, which may not be that obvious to many.
Faith is the relationship between a person and God. It’s the belief, the bond, the knowledge of eternal truth that goes beyond the ability of man to rationalise, prove or explain. And true faith can’t support the actions of many we see around the world, whatever they call themselves. True faith is based on love, joy, peace, mercy, grace, and understanding.
Religion, on the other hand, is the framework that we build to try and formalise all of that and put it into a box we can carry around and show people. Every single aspect of a religion is man-made, and therefore subject to mans failings, desires and faults, except faith. And anyone claiming a ‘righteous war’, be they IS, be they Westboro Baptist fundamentalists, be they whoever, operates from a base of hatred, judgement, anger, bitterness and separation – none of which has any connection to faith in the God I know.
My prayer, for now and the new year to come, is that religion takes a back seat and faith abounds in our hearts and minds. Only when that breaks out in this world will we see the seeds of change.
May the peace of the season, the love of God, the joy of family and friends, and the understanding of this special time, be with all of you.