In the media and in conversation with others I am hearing a constant refrain - the complaint that we now live in a 'nanny' state. It begins with surveillance cameras. If you drive on certain roads, visit any town, city or even railway station your presence is noted and recorded. I suppose the argument for their use is based on the need for national security and they have been useful in bringing dangerous people to book. But even so, many see this as an intrusion, an infringement of our privacy and human rights. But it doesn't stop there - farmers complain of the satellites reporting back to the government on how they are keeping their livestock and what they are growing in their fields. If we have a 'sat-nav' in our car or tractor we can be tracked and when road pricing comes in they will know where we are at any given time of the day. Then there are the other aspects of government control, the sharing of our personal information across departments and even being passed to the USA should we ever decide to travel there. We are also told what we should and shouldn't eat and are generally treated like children instead of mature individuals capable of making our own decisions. Television has also jumped on the bandwagon with makeover shows dictating how they think we should dress and what our homes should look like.
The point I'm trying to make here is that we are increasingly being watched, toldvwhat to do and how we should think. Some may say that is a good thing, bringing safety and security to an uncertain world but most don't like it, wanting to live their lives as they choose and with privacy.
Sadly, some people feel this applies to the Church too. We stand accused of being proscriptive, of telling people what they should believe and how they must live their lives. I have to agree that there are elements of this in certain parts of the global Church - but this isn't what Jesus taught. We see in the gospels that Jesus rarely became angry, but when he did, his anger was often directed at
those who tried to control people, burdening them with rules and regulations, telling them how to live their lives.
Jesus was different because he came to tell people about God and to bring a new kind of freedom. This was not a freedom to do exactly as we please, clearly there have to be some rules and regulations for the benefit and protection of society as a whole. But Jesus taught a new understanding of God. He is not some overbearing ogre bent on smiting any who step out of line - but he is our creator God who longs to be part of his creation, sharing in our joys and sorrows as we journey through life.
Obviously, there has to be some teaching and the global Church will continue to do that in what I hope will be a sensitive and caring way, sharing the love of God as Jesus did. But also, God invites us, as individuals, to respond to his call of love - and maybe the best way to do that is to get to know him better through reading his word.
February the 21st is Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. Perhaps this would be a good time to re-acquaint ourselves with our Bibles. Maybe by reading a Gospel? Not swiftly and in great chunks, but slowly, a little at a time, making space to reflect and to ask God to speak to us through our reading.
As we journey through Lent towards the great celebration of Easter when we remember God giving of himself in love for all of mankind - I pray that you will be richly blessed by what you learn about God and that you will experience a new freedom in your life as you get to know him better.
With all good wishes