18th August 2011

The Bible Comes Alive

“You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God.”
2 Timothy 3:1-4 (NLT)

The riots of the first weekend in August in London, then spreading to a number of other cities over the next few days, are a reflection of those verses in 2 Timothy. All those words, written a long time ago, describe the attitude of the people involved in the terrible events of those days.

Just as the verses above spotlight the wrong attitudes of too many people in our society today, does the bible offer any solution? Yes, in Matthew 22:37-39 (NIV), Jesus said “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” While some will say it is a naïve approach, sharing that single value would do more to transform our society than any other reaction to the riots.

Those rioters were certainly not loving their neighbours. What could be a more terrible time than having your home burned to the ground because you live above a shop?  What is even more terrible is the rioters didn’t care whether there were people in the flats when they set the buildings on fire. What could be more terrible than being robbed, when you are already defenceless, by people pretending to help you? What could be more terrible than the anarchy that reigned for those hours when the police lost control of the streets?

Without love, the veneer of civilization is very thin and carnal human nature, unchecked and unrestrained, soon reverts to the law of the jungle where the strongest win and the weak are regarded with contempt. It seems the majority of the rioters displayed no spiritual or moral values, they had no code of behaviour to restrain them. Some were undoubtedly criminals who see violence and robbery as a way of life. But many seem to have just grabbed the opportunity, without shame or any concern for the people whose lives, homes and businesses were trashed.

Some will call for harsh punishment and retribution against the rioters. It is true that they should be held accountable for their actions and dealt with in an appropriate way. But the riots reveal a far deeper problem for society. People need to be taught to take responsibility for their actions. There needs to be respect for authority and authority needs to be deserving of that respect. The very people who should have been upholding and supporting respect for authority, are often the ones who are undermining it with their lack of love.  Discipline has become a dirty word and self-discipline regarded as an unnecessary restraint in our ‘anything goes’ world.

While the police have regained control, through superior force and weight of numbers, the question is for how long? What is needed is a society that lives by a code of conduct, a set of shared values that binds it together in such a way that people simply don’t act in negative and destructive ways.  That is what love is about.  There is no law against love (Gal 5:22) It should be remembered that the majority did not get involved in rioting and looting. It should also be remembered that a larger number of people got involved in the clean-up operation, completely voluntarily, than were involved in the rioting. These people were demonstrating love, by their actions.

There will always be a minority that rejects any values or standards of society, but when the majority accept and uphold them, then even the minority are forced to conform to some extent

Prayer
Father, please give us the spiritual and moral guidance we need as a nation; give wisdom to those in authority who have to deal with the problems exposed by the riots; and comfort and strengthen all those whose lives have been damaged by them.
Amen

Study by Keith Hartrick

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