"Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6.34
Francois de la Mote Fenelon was bishop of Cambrai during the early 18th century. As a royal tutor he was familiar with the ways of the French court and an astute observer. What he reports is a mixture of egotism and ruthlessness. Yet what else would one expect from an assembly of ambitious types, from privileged backgrounds, hungry for power and prestige and willing - even eager - to trample on anyone in their way? One need not confine one's observation to the French court of the early 18th century to behold such behaviour. There are many equivalents, in many places, in our own day!
What is it that produces such a toxic mixture when authority figures, whose responsibility is to govern with integrity and on behalf of those they represent, come together? Surely it is simply what happens when our inherent selfishness is allowed to run wild? And the antidote? Jesus teaches that we are to prefer the interests of others to our own and to trust God who knows us and loves us better than we can ourselves.
Applying this simple formula has the potential not only to transform the atmosphere but to render us bomb-proof from the bad behaviour of others. Let them rant and rave about our faults and failings, we know that we have a Father in heaven who created us for a purpose and who loves us as we are (even if we are not yet the finished product!). Delivered from self-obsession, we are free to put our interest and energies into serving others and promoting the causes we believe in, while never losing sight of the fact that the way in which we pursue our objectives is as important as the objectives themselves.
What does this look like in practice. Our churches should answer that. Healthy churches are shop-windows of Kingdom living. How we love God and treat others in church should provide the blue-print for what the whole of society will be like, when it embraces Kingdom values. That will happen when Jesus returns. Yet it should not stop is from beginning now, right where we are. Because, in his own reflection on that return, Jesus himself wondered "would he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18.8)