There has been a lot of blood shed this summer. It is hard to know how to respond to the information – unconfirmed, confirmed, falsified, justified, ignored, flaunted, demanding action or reaction – that has bombarded us.
The nature of our information age is to over-saturate our attention with the now, promoting the idea that this moment is of all-consuming importance.
I live in England, one of three countries – at this point in history; in past times there have been several more, smaller, kingdoms – on Great Britain, the largest of the British Isles, a group of islands off the coast of mainland Europe. This island has been invaded many times: by Britons, by the varied peoples of the Roman Empire, by Angles, by Saxons, by Vikings, by Normans. People-groups have swept across the land, bringing different ideas, different values, different gods, different languages. At times, different communities have co-existed in unstable peace; at times, one has put another to the sword, destroying everything in their path; and at times, they have inter-mixed.
There has been a lot of bloodshed on this island. The second-half of the fifteenth-century saw the Wars of the Roses, dynastic wars for the throne of England. The mid-seventeenth-century saw the Civil Wars. As Scotland considers independence after some 300 years of union, we are reminded of bloody battles, some won by Scottish armies and those of their allies, some by English armies and those of their allies.
Then there are the wars this country has taken part in beyond our shores, whether building an Empire or opposing empire-building on the part of others. Our history is soaked in blood. Had we lived in any of those moments, our own personal experience would have been much closer to that of men, women and children in Iraq or Gaza or many other parts of the world this summer.
And this history has made us who we are as a nation. This history has shaped us, for good and for ill. There have been a great many atrocities, and a greater still number of tragedies. And there has also been a great deal of good in the unfolding of our history, our culture, our discoveries, our inventions…
I would suggest that the great deal of good that has come out of our folly and mis-directed passion is evidence of a God who loves human beings; who gives us great freedom but also sets limits on our triumphs (so we do not utterly destroy others) and on our tragedies (so we are not utterly destroyed by others); and who is at work in all things to bring good out of even the most evil of situations. Good that is testified-to in former enemies becoming friends.
This does not mean that it does not matter that, all over the world, one tribe is putting another to the sword – literally and metaphorically. It does not mean that we should not speak out, or act.
It does mean that we should be very careful in our choice of words, and actions. There is no people on earth who occupies the moral high-ground; nor any low-point that cannot be transformed by love. The longer we hold on to our commitment to violence towards one another, the longer it will take to see enemies become friends. And yet this, and not our present troubles, is the ultimate reality, because in and through Christ, God is reconciling all things.