And there is also a general fogginess in life.
Last Saturday, we were at a Christian-Muslim Symposium – in the midst of well-controlled discussion, it took some effort to distinguish content from mere rhetoric. Dinner after with a motley crew got heated (both in speech and in kimchi terms) as we talked about the forum and personal loyalties to speakers got in the way of objective discussion. The next day, I got majorly checked out by some people of the same gender who’d come for a carol service experience (but really, there isn’t any way of de-fogging that but a good shot of Romans 1:18-32 etc is there?). On Monday, lunch was with someone who had recently been retrenched – it was difficult to tell if her story was inherently contradictory or a consequence of not having English as her first language, so difficult to know how to help. On Tuesday, breakfast with some visiting friends ended with another heated discussion about the church in Singapore – the great fog being, again, their personal loyalties and what they erroneously presumed to be my personal loyalties. There was an amusing point in the discussion where they claimed to be working for unity, then promptly segued into some “we” vs “you” accusations.
On Wednesday-of-the-fog, working through Philippians during the city breakfast Bible study threw out some foggy erroneous ideas about the trustworthiness of God. After dinner at someone’s place overlooking the lovely St. Katharine Docks, the Co-leader and I were queried about the methodology of the Local Church in growing Christians. Fogginess came because the host assumed that his personal experience of how he had been kept from falling away should be normative of all Christians. The far more clear-headed Co-leader, thinking that I was starting to make conciliatory noises, took the terribly un-English and un-gentlemanly precaution of kicking me, then jumped in to point out that the main way God promises to keep us is by his Spirit through his word in the Bible.
After the carol service on Thursday, we went to dinner with a complete stranger who had happened to visit the Local Church because all the shops had closed. Over roast chicken, we talked about examples of the gospel mindset that we knew: high-flyers taking early retirement and making use of their time to talk to CEOs and the unreached upper echelons of city folk, people courageously standing against idolatry in already tiny Welsh churches, retired bible teachers and preachers setting up shop again in dying churches to reach people who wouldn’t be comfortable with anything but the posh accents of yesteryear (but who still got mocked and almost spat at), people working in difficult circumstances in Afghanistan and India and South-east Asia, people setting up churches in commuter towns and tea/bookshops in certain enclaves; people who are clear about what life is about (the lordship of Christ) and are therefore unashamed to be working for God’s glory.
Last evening, a couple of Africans and lovers-of-all-things-African and I went to an African concert. The most cheers were reserved for someone who spoke vaguely of the emancipation of the mind and sang generally of freedom. But the poll the audience, and you would have found (as we did) that their concepts of what constitutes slavery and freedom differ almost to the point of being in opposition to each other.
This all brought to mind a post-lunch discussion with a Tutor a fortnight ago: that there is a great need to ensure that people (and because of his job, people who are to be sent out into full-time ministry) learn the clarity of mind. There needs to be a clarity as to the truth (and why this truth is worth dying for) – that is at once simple and remarkably complex, a clarity as to reality (situations, circumstances, arguments), and a clarity as to the interaction between the two.