We’ve just returned from a couple of weeks in France. We were in a deeply rural area – with no radio or television and no newspapers. It was lovely.
One day in the middle of last week we encountered someone fresh out from England. Horrified at what he had left behind, there was only one thing he could speak of.
When we returned we picked up a voicemail. Our younger son phoning from Central London last week: the home of one of his friend’s had just been burnt out.
And those involved? Some known criminals – sure – but an awful lot of ‘ordinary’ people – some with nice homes and lifestyles.
Now the aftermath – comment and recrimination, anecdote and retribution. Why did it happen? Could it happen again? Could it happen here in Worthing?
Of course. Why not?
Whatever our view of the world, it is a fact that we live according to our ‘inner compass’.
No amount of moral teaching, whether religious or not, no amount of education – independent or state, no amount of economic prosperity will make any difference to what our inner selves dictate.
If I’m selfish, I’m selfish and when the circumstances are right for me to do what I’ve often felt like doing – but maybe haven’t had the opportunity – then I’ll act selfish.
That’s why Jesus said that we had to start over, start afresh – this time with him on our inside. He changes us from the inside because he is alive and comes to live in us. He is the ‘way’ – the perfect way of being that we humans are designed for. And he’s life – good life, full, satisfying. And he’s truth.
I’m not against religion as such. Nor am I against the idea of being educated. And having a reasonable economic standard is highly desirable.
But if any or all of these is taken on without our hearts being radically transformed – to love other human beings, to really understand how this world is designed to ‘work’ – then we are going to mess up.
Nigel O’Dwyer has three children and leads a church in Goring.