Tuesday 16 August 2011

After the fire came a still, small voice…

As I write this article, the country is still reeling from the August riots. Over two thousand looters have already been arrested. Emergency courts are dealing with the surge in cases. Shattered communities are doing their best to clear up the mess and start again. For families who have lost sons and brothers the process will be much longer.

Now that the immediate danger has been dealt with, it is right that we embark on some serious soul searching. How did we bring up a generation who do not know it is wrong to wreck the lives of others for the sake of a bigger TV and some new trainers? Is it our casual rejection of millennia of wisdom about loyal, stable relationships as the best environment for children? Is it the lack of respect for teachers and elders? Or the lack of integrity in our bankers and expenses-guzzling politicians? Is it the rampant commercialism of our age: you are what you consume, so if you haven't got it, go and take it? Is it the shallow, me-too atheism that says we are just animals with no meaning or purpose to life - and then gets all surprised when we start to act like it?

Good questions and I think we should chew them over and take them to heart. We need to be careful how we answer them. Get them wrong and we might end up living through the same nightmare again. For example, those who want to evict every looter's family from their homes and cut off all their benefits will create a feral class who roam the streets with no possible source of income but more robbery…

But I believe in a God who is bigger than the riots, so I believe there are answers. I'd like to tell you about two of them - answers where I believe actions speak louder than words.

Even as the riots first started, we led a children's holiday club called Have I got News for you. 75 young children heard a wonderful message about how much their lives matter because God loves them. I wish you could have been there to see the spontaneity and openness with which they explored the love of God. What a contrast to those who feel their lives are worthless, that they are not wanted by anyone and have nothing to lose.

The second answer came as the riots were at their peak. Some twenty of our young people set out on a summer mission to bless and serve the people of Walsall. They washed cars for free, picked up litter, gave a free barbecue, and ran participative activities in sport, art and music. Their motive? They want to follow Jesus and love their neighbour. What a contrast to the things appearing on our television screens.

We need to rebuild, not just our shops and streets, but our hearts and our values. Start with Jesus, as our amazing young people have done, and you won't go far wrong.