Problem or embarrassment?
So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3.16
Yesterday I wended my way from Kyle to Edinburgh on a train that got later and later and finally stopped, decanting its passengers onto a platform to await the following service. The man sitting opposite me had taken 5 trains in the past two days every one of which had been delayed or cancelled. A foreign couple nearby was in a state of shock having had to interrupt their cruise to address a medical emergency, which involved treatment by a newly qualified doctor operating with only one senior colleague in an A&E ward which was overcrowded to the point of chaos. All the while I was counting my pennies because, having reported my debit card as damaged, my bank saw fit to cancel the old card and sent the new one to the wrong address. When I phoned to enquire what was going on I was told there was nothing the bank could do and I would just have to wait for a replacement.
We are a wealthy country yet the trains don't run on time, the roads are dangerous, public services favour investors over customers, hospitals are understaffed and overworked, and dental appointments have become rarer than Willy Wonka's golden tickets. This is a theological issue because it invokes cynicism, just like the water system in the ancient city of Laodicea, one of the 7 churches to receive a letter in the opening chapters of Revelation, the concluding book of the Bible. Hot water from the springs had cooled by the time it reached the city, while cold water from the reservoire had warmed up and so neither reached citizens in a fit state. It was a situation which must have frustrated the municipal authorities and clearly led to a reputation of general indifference, which came to characterise its citizens' faith commitment - or, rather, lack of it.
The problem occurs when we allow personal gain to trump love for God and for others. Over the past 50 years UK society's service ethic has been overtaken by a preference for private enterprise. The justification was that the wealth generated by entrepreneurs would trickle down to the rest of us leading to a better life for all. Not only is this based on the faulty assumption that the world contains limitless resources, it also plays to the worst human instinct for greed. We need to recover a reverence for God and creation and the generosity of spirit which prioritises community benefit over private gain. This will not come naturally but is a choice. Do we want more of the same, in which life becomes increasingly chaotic and dangerous as more people compete for diminishing resources, or are we prepared to sacrifice our selfish ambitions in pursuit of a better outcome for all and a closer walk with God?