addEventListener("load", function() { setTimeout(hideURLbar, 0); }, false); function hideURLbar(){ window.scrollTo(0,1); }

Who Speaks For God?


That is one of the biggest questions facing us today, according to the late Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks.


Not so long ago, you had to be a qualified and skilled writer for people to read your thinking because publishing houses and newspaper groups controlled who got to do the talking. With the emergence of social media, everyone now has a platform to broadcast their thinking. At first, this was heralded as a big democratic gain. Now we can see the drawbacks, as the angriest and most opinionated people attract the most attention online. And truth is getting harder to distinguish from the lies. This gives people an almost constant sense of bewilderment and confusion; it is becoming easier to deceive people and lead them astray.


In this mix, speaking for God is not straightforward. And when we read these lines from Isaiah chapter 55:


For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts


we are being reminded how much bigger God is, despite how smart we think we have become. No human being knows God inside out: it would be like a fox mastering Wi-Fi. But this is where the Gospel comes in. The Bible teaches us about the character of God and Jesus perfectly embodies God. If we want to know what God is like, we only have to look at the life of Jesus. We are not left in the dark about God. Far from it. Isaiah 55 goes on to say that when God speaks, no word is wasted:


it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.


This is good news because it says the kingdom of God will draw near because of us, in spite of us, and when we are sound asleep. We offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God, but that does not mean we have to work until we drop. God is way ahead of us every day. Our response is to pray and to listen, and to be led by this. His word will do the rest and continues to do so long after we have stopped to rest.


Isaiah continues with these words:


For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace


It’s a stunning promise. And it contrasts greatly with the average human experience today which amounts to: you shall go out with fear and be led back fatigued. There is lots of anxiety and alarm around us and, let’s be honest, within us. I don’t need to set out the reasons why; we are all familiar with them. And they pose a fascinating question: how do we model hope in our churches?


John chapter 17 contains words of Jesus as his life closes in. He is praying with urgency and clarity and asks God to make his people one. It is a striking image, and it’s one we struggle with because of the ideas that govern our culture. We value our individuality and fear being subsumed by another person or group. One comic has even cheekily described marriage as ‘two psychopaths under one quilt’.


The thing is, we don’t have to strive hard to become one in Christ; we are one. That’s our starting point. Jesus’ prayer was answered a long time ago. It’s an organic truth. That we find it hard to believe doesn’t change its reality. Our oneness is rooted in God. It does not mean that we (or our churches) lose our individuality, our freedom or our own opinions, for God has made us differently. But it gives us an anchor, an

unshakeable mooring from which we act: I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, Jesus says.


Throughout his prayer, Jesus shows that his intimate bond with the Father is built on the way they listen to each other: the Father listens to the Son and the Son listens to the Father. And we show our oneness when we listen carefully to one another. Not jumping in at the first chance to speak; not finishing other people’s sentences or assuming we know what they feel – but allowing them to speak without interruption.


It has been said that being listened to is as close to being loved as to be indistinguishable from it. In a fractured, divided, polarising society, this is a gift with special powers to heal. The loudest voices aren’t necessarily the ones that need ministering to first; it is often the faintest voices, the ones that are used to being ignored or have lost their sense of hope, that need attention quickly. God has a particular frequency, and attentive listening helps us to find it more and more regularly.


For once we listen to someone, we begin to hear where God might be in their story, and we get the chance to share this with them because hearing someone out establishes their trust. This is how we model hope for our communities, and to begin to reverse days that begin with worry and end in exhaustion, and find instead those sounds of joy and those feelings of peace that God promises as the kingdom draws near.



Why Violence Is Declining In The West But There Is No Guarantee It Will ContinueTo
Why Violence Is Declining In The West But There Is No Guarantee It Will ContinueTo
Obama's Covert Wars

The use of drones is going to change warfare out of all recognition in the next decades.

Through A Glass Starkly

Images of traumatic incidents caught on mobile phone can be put to remarkable effect.

What Are British Values?

Is there a British identity and if so, what has shaped the values and institutions that form it?

© 2023 Simon Burton-Jones All Rights Reserved