Tuesday 9 August 2011

Rioting and Restoration

I wondered whether or not to write this. In situations like these, so many voices rise up - so many opinions, so many perspectives. I have an interesting mix of opinions in my news feed and twitter stream. Some people expressing anger at the 'thieving scrounging scumbags', others offering their prayers and love to all those affected. When things like this happen, I often find myself silent. I don't know what to say. I think it's because my heart is filled with sadness and despondency and I simply withdraw.

But there is a voice that needs to be heard. It's not mine. This week I went to a youth festival (of sorts) called newday. Hundreds of church youth groups camped for a week full of seminars, worship and fun in the sun (and rain!). I signed up to be one of the campsite helpers, part of a team that makes sure things run smoothly practically speaking, pegging down tents in the storms and cleaning toilets. It was a lot of fun! On the last day, just as we were packing up some young people completely unprovoked threw several plastic milk bottles in our direction. We were stunned. I couldn't understand why these kids would want to do that. Anger rose up in me. How dare they! We've been here all week trying to make it the best experience we could, helping them out and cleaning their toilets. As soon as I started to think this I felt ashamed of myself. I wasn't here to accept their thanks, I wasn't there to judge them and I'll tell you why.

I'm a christian. That doesn't mean that I should be a goody two shoes. It doesn't mean that I'm better than anyone else. It doesn't mean that I can scrunch my nose at other people's behaviour and thank the Lord that I'm not like them. It doesn't mean that I can view those looters as scumbags.

What it means is that I know that nobody can be good by themselves. We're all infected with a selfishness which leads to all kinds of grime and filth in our everyday lives. Have you ever cheated anyone out of anything? Not been honest about your taxes? 'Borrowed' something from your friend or sibling?

We're all hopeless cases. We all can't live the way that we 'should'. We can't measure up to the standard. So God sent Jesus, the only person who's ever lived and never did anything wrong. This man died for you and me, heaped with all the crappy things that everyone has ever done. He died for looters, he died for us, with our hypocrisy and self righteousness; so that we can all be made new. So that we can behave in a way that we couldn't do otherwise. And even then, we can't be smug about that, because he's the one who's done it all.

God says that he doesn't want our destruction, he wants our restoration. He has shown his love in giving us the single most precious thing to him and that demonstrates to us that we are that precious to him. So what do I feel in times like this? I feel sad, I feel angry - and rightly so. But also, I feel compassion. Compassion for those people who 'feel that they have so little to lose that rioting is a good option (Toby Blume)

Don't misunderstand me. I am not calling for a lack of discipline. I am not saying that the police should not try to stop the rioters. They have my full support - they have a terrible and scary job right now. I am not saying that those kids who threw the milk should not face the consequences of their bad behaviour. Just that our anger at the looters may be indicative of our anger at the fact that we don't live like we'd like to, and that is cause to acknowledge the only person who has ever been good and ask him for his help.

What do you think?

Lots of love, Rachel. x

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