If one part suffers, every part suffers with it... 1 Corinthians 12.26
Yesterday's Calcutta Cup match between Scotland and England lived up to expectations - especially if you support Scotland. The pundits will claim that it was, above all, a victory for rugby, as two well-matched teams raised each other's game with ever-more enterprising moves, desperate defence and brilliant flourishes. It was terrific to watch; it must have been electrifying to be there!
But when does healthy rivalry sink into bigotry and oppression? It's a fine line which is increasingly crossed as sport becomes more "professional" and the stakes are raised. Then, rather than raising standards, the tendency is to sink back into tribalism, demonising the opposition and turning mutual respect into bitter loathing.
The antidote is to walk in each other's shoes, taking the trouble to see the world from someone else's perspective, allowing compassion and empathy to balance more partisan instincts. The current visit of the Pope and his unlikely team of ecclesiastical ambassadors is a refreshing example of people taking the trouble to pool their efforts in the cause of reconciliation and peace.
That the people concerned are church leaders reflects the fact that Jesus made reconciliation a priority and, as the church grew, so did the apostles. The world needs reconciliation just as much today, as it did then - so good on Pope Francis, Justin Welby and Iain Greenshields. We may not all be denominational leaders but we can be Jesus' ambassadors of reconciliation at whatever level and in whichever context we operate. It starts as we raise one another in our prayers, yet who knows that will take us...?