New Meanings For Old Words

(The Nationalist, 14 July 2006)


Jesus wasn’t “laid back”. He had a sense of urgency about him, and he communicated that to others, especially his immediate followers. Why? Because he cared passionately about people. The mandate he gave his followers was: preach repentance – a word, which, in its original sense, means “to think again”.

If Jesus were walking the roads of our world today, would he ask us also to think again? I think he would, though perhaps in different ways: –
We live in a world where an unjust economic order keeps a large part of the world in poverty, because of unjust terms of trade and conditions of debt repayment.

We have a TV culture which presents violence, and the abuse of sex and drugs, as normal.

It is often said that words like “good”, “true” and ‘beautiful’ have no objective meaning, that one opinion is as good as another, that what is true for one person may not be true for another. That undermines community, and leaves people isolated, and feeling helplessly that there is no common language for dialogue.

Sometimes children grow up without parental direction, left to their own devices, and, as a result, without a sense of values, and with nothing to live for.

The pursuit of individual autonomy in the name of personal freedom, commonly results in a loss of trust and security, to isolation, alienation and broken relationships.

A world without God is a cold and lonely place, where everyone is a stranger, and there is little sense of family, community or thanksgiving.

Any reader can add to the list.

We can be part of the answer or part of the problem – the choice is everyone’s. Do nothing but moan, and you’re part of the problem. But the reality is that everyone can do something. Everything, however small, makes a difference. Everyone can ask themselves: What can I do, in my work-place or neighbourhood, to improve human relations? To build community? To show more respect for people? Respect for the person is at the heart of the Christian faith.

There is another point – different, but not unrelated. Are we, in our world, in a situation where the environmental sins of our past are catching up on us? Are we heading into a situation where the only item on humanity’s agenda will be survival, and everything else will be subordinated to that? Examples are our abuse, waste, and destruction of two of the most basic necessities of human life, clean air and clean drinking water. There has been a reversal of roles in this matter, with environmentalists preaching the message of repentance, taking over from the cartoon figure in sandwich-boards, proclaiming “The End is Nigh”. Every person has a responsibility to make the world a home fit for humans.


For those in a hurry: ‘The vocation of every person is to become human in community’. (Anon)