During the 1980s it was quite the fashion for the government and indeed anyone else to visit the evils of society on “The Planners”, writes Rev Sydney Maitland. It did not really matter what those evils were or how they were to be blamed on “The Planners” but anything connected with urban development or the environment that went amiss must be blamed on someone, and any group that could not respond adequately would do. The fact that the planning system had been established by statute, legislated on by politicians, and was maintained by regulations and orders also agreed by politicians was of course quite beside the point.
Now it is the bankers who are getting the flack. The fact that it is politicians who devised and managed the regulatory system within which they operate is also quite beside the point. Equally, the fact that monetary policy (bank lending and the sale of bonds) and fiscal policy (the raising and spending of taxes) are the opposite sides of the same coin and their mismanagement goes back decades is also a matter to be airbrushed out of sight.
The fact that scapegoats are required in the face of major national issues is however moot for all of us. Indeed, the more complex the system and the more subtle the spread of responsibility, then the greater the need for simplistic solutions.
At the root of all these issues and misdirected efforts is the nature of the human condition. The record of history shows its taste for greed and mastery of others, and for letting the weakest and least endowed pay the cost of the failures of the strong and the accomplished. And this history is not dissipated by the spread of religion, whether theistic – including Christianity with the rest – or indeed the secular religions such as nationalism, socialism, capitalism, materialism or indeed scientism. I include Christianity for the church is also composed of sinners, who dare to hope and to rise up above the guilt and burdens of our sins and yet are still capable of falling back and having to repent again.
The point of course is that without Jesus the church is nothing, and humanity itself can only achieve at best a compromised and partial excellence which accrues to the strongest. The human record is the majesty of Rembrant and Beethoven, set against the backdrop of the concentration camps and the killing fields.
Hence Jesus, who is the measure of the love of God: and who willingly accepted His mission of teaching and preaching the Kingdom of God, knowing it would lead him to the cross where He would die taking responsibility for the degradation and evil of the whole of humanity.
Here Jesus willing offered Himself as the scapegoat for all human sin and corruption and was accepted in the sight of God: for only God could meet the quality and extent of the holiness of God. And having made that offering He was then wholly accepted and vindicated by God the Father.
When we look at the global issues of poverty, the environment, economic failure and political cowardice, we find that we are all complicit, and all are guilty to some degree. For some it is direct and personal, and for others it is diffuse and endemic in our community.
That is why Jesus did not say a great deal about political issues as such, for if humanity could be redeemed as a whole then politics and economics and culture and society would also be redeemed. The more individuals who accepted His salvation as He gives it, then the more our communities will also be redeemed and led into the fullness of His kingdom.
In this sense, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Equally, God so loved the WORLD (my stress) that He gave the best that He had – His Son – so that all might not perish but have everlasting life. Consequently is all becomes a matter of our personal approach to God, available only in and through Jesus Christ.
May the Lord bless you in your Lenten meditations.