Saturday, 18 August 2012

Just A Little Bit

This week has seen the harsh prison sentence handed down against Pussy Riot for their protest in Russia.

There was once a time when the Russian Orthodox Church stood firm against the State, and we heard the stories of persecution of Christians. Now the relationship is nice and cozy. What a difference 22 years makes. That is a generation- actually, a bit less.

When the persecuted church becomes the persecuting church, then it has a very short memory. When we prayed for the church in Russia back in the days when the USSR existed, I doubt any of us wanted what we saw today. It is not enough just for us to want our own freedom and not care about anyone else's. Even worse if we use freedom we have gained to deny freedom to others.

There was probably no big compromise. The Rubicon is either ahead of us (this decision is not the big "crossing the Rubicon" one) or behind us (well, you should have thought of this before you "crossed the Rubicon").

It is easy for the church to justify compromise with modern society. We have to be relevant or else people won't listen to us. The world has moved on. Let's jump on the bandwagon that passed by a few years back and give ourselves a round of applause for being so radical. Nothing could be worse than a harsh editorial in The Guardian- that's real proper persecution.

Recently there is one thing that has had been laying awake at night. It is an awkward question- at what point would I make the decision between comfort and Christ? What level of persecution would lead me to deny Him?

As I reflected on this, I realised that often Christianity is about the little things, not the big. We can pray over the big decisions- what job? Should I marry and if so, who? Where ahall I live?

But in every decision, big or small, there is the decision behind every decision- does this choice follow God or not?

Beyond the price tag, the questions whether people exploited? As this section from the Doctor Who episode Planet of the Ood has it.

DONNA: A great big empire built on slavery.

THE DOCTOR: It's not so different from your time.

DONNA: Oi! I haven't got slaves.

THE DOCTOR: Who do you think made your clothes?

One of Jesus' parables is that of the dishonest manager (Luke 16:1-13), which interestingly enough is where Jesus tells us we cannot serve two masters.

But Jesus also tells us that those who are dishonest in little things are dishonest in the big things. Those who are honest in little things are honest in the big things. The idea that minor misdemeanours are OK as long as you don't do anything major has no place in Christianity.

This attitude can crop up in "folk Christianity". I am thinking of one old lady who likes to emphasise that she is, as she is fond of describing herself as, "such a good Christian". To be a Christian is simply about being of the right social status, being British, and the occasional tickboxing acts- go to church Easter (and make sure one puts on one's Sunday best- nothing worse than these "disrespectful young people" who turn up Sunday after Sunday in jeans and T-shirts unaware that this is not how one dresses "in the house of God"), give up chocolate for Lent, put a few pence in a charity tin, make sure one's children and grandchildren are christened in the Church of England, and as long as one does nothing majorly wrong, then you're in. When you listen to her, you realise that in her mind she has lived such a good life the last thing she needs is a Saviour. I am always struck by her deep faith in how she has earned her place in Heaven.

We see this attitude. Sin is doing something majorly major, rather than failing to put God first. And it is in the little decisions that we decide whether to put God first. But it goes deeper than that- it is our decisions that reflect our attitudes. To make the right decisions- the ones for God- we need to have the right attitude towards Him.

If we realise just how much sin offends God, we are more grateful that He sent Jesus to die for us. It went through my mind that the one prayer I should pray isn't "Show me more of Your love", or "Show me more of Your power", but "Show me how much my sin offends You, so I will be more thankful for Your love and power."

I would like to think that if I had a major Christ versus comfort decision to make, then I would choose Christ. But that is missing the point somewhat, as if we can bumble along and come across those big moments when we need to get God involved, with Him out of the way in those long years in-between. That we can look back proudly and say "yep, I had big moments and I put God first."

Instead every day we face those little decisions where we need to put God first. Get faithful in the small things and we will have the character that helps us be faithful in the big things.

At what point do I deny Christ? In the little things.

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