A few days ago, I suddenly thought that life at the moment is like living in a science fiction novel. The COP26 summit in Glasgow, with all the news coverage about global warming and the consequences for the whole world, is unavoidable. Even the most sceptical must give it some thought. The world changed radically for many people, and society in general, with the Industrial Revolution and things have continued to change with increasing frequency since then in a way that was unheard of for previous generations. Many things improved for many people, but it appears now that that ‘improvement’ may only have been a short-term gain. How many babies have we thrown out with the bath water? New isn’t always better, is it? What are the things that you remember with pleasure that are now unfashionable, or hard to come by?
The Bible tells us that there is nothing new under the sun, and that seems hard to believe in these days of rapid technological advances and improvements. What we need most now are new and improved ways of keeping ourselves warm and watered and fed. What we are focused on is the potential lack of turkeys in the shops for Christmas, and the fact that huge ships coming from China filled with cheap Christmas decorations and children’s toys may be delayed. What message are we giving our children when we teach them that they only have to ask for something and it will be supplied?
Things in our world look very different than they did in biblical times, but the reason that nothing under the sun is new is because the root cause of much of our suffering comes from human behaviour, which seems to remain fixed no matter what progress is made in scientific terms. Only the sources of power, and the numbers of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ alter.
Mercifully, the vast majority of human beings have good hearts and behave in reasonable ways, but there are still many desiring power and control in all strata of human existence and, with that comes greed, anger, selfishness and self-interest above the common good. There is nothing new in this behaviour. The Bible was designed to teach us how to overcome those things which will harm and limit us most in our lives, and to offer us forgiveness through the life and death of Jesus when we fail to behave in ways that are best both for ourselves and others.
This feels uncomfortably like a lecture to me, but it is just a fact. If we turn on a tap, we expect hot or cold water to flow. If we build a fire, we expect warmth. If we behave in loving and forgiving ways, love and forgiveness comes to us – and we are all in need of those things.