I have changed, evolved, softened over the years but one of the core elements that has shaped my perspectives and activities that has not shifted is that it is what has taken place in history that shapes a geography. The connection between history and what we see is very strong. This is the case at a personal level. Visit a counselor and they will wish to uncover what has taken place earlier in one’s life to help discover the factors that shape responses and beliefs. What is true at a personal level is true corporately. From John 7 to 10 we read of Jesus in Jerusalem. Those four chapters will be in contrast to the final 3 verses of chapter 10 that I will quote in a short while. In Jerusalem, the ‘holy’ city that was there to be the place where salvation entered for the world, the response to Jesus was all-but exclusively to reject him. Only once or twice do we get a hesitant ‘maybe he could be the Messiah’, and certainly not from the powers that be. We read:
- Jesus has a demon (7:20; 8:52; 10:20)
- they tried to arrest him (7:30, 44; 10:39)
- no prophet arises from Galilee (7:52)
- questioned his legitimacy (8:39)
- they declare he is not a Jew but a Samaritan (8:48)
- pick up stones to kill him (8:59; 10:31)
- he is not from God (9:16)
- he is a sinner (9:24)
Not exactly welcoming him with open arms! The contrast of the four chapters to the final three verses is immense, with even the slow build up over the chapters to leave us with a clear picture that he is overwhelmingly rejected underlining in a few words what took place in a different geography:
He went away again, across the Jordan, to the place, where John was batptising earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him , and they were saying, ‘John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’ And many believed in him there.
Geography, geography, geography. It is hard to put together so few words and to emphasise geography so many times:
- He went away
- across the Jordan
- to the place
- he remained there
- many came
- believed in him there
The emphasis on locality is unmistaken. And tucked in those verses is one reference to history: the place where John had been baptising earlier. The geography is different spiritually to Jerusalem. Earlier in Jerusalem it had been the city that stones and kills the prophets. That shaped the geography. It is the centre not of holiness, but of demonic bondage of a particular type. Across the Jordan has been exposed to the open confession and a baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
History shapes the geography.
In the same way that if we understand where a person has come from, what they have experienced we will often understand why they have made the choices they have made so if we understand the history of a geography we will often realise why it manifests in the way it does. The outcome, both at a personal level and at a corporate level, might not be predetermined (there are choices) but the bias toward, and many times the direct outcome, can be seen as a result of the history.
Of this I have certainly not changed at all. I am as strongly believing this today as any time in the past 20 years. I have also seen too many shifts take place when tackling some of the historical aspects. Bloodshed, divisions, wrong alliances, changing of boundaries, enslavement and the like all sow into the land, and what is sown will produce fruit.
I might add to this that I am more convinced now than 20 years ago that the Bible does not outline in some predetermined way the future (antiChrist, Armageddon and such) so am a strong believer we can, and are called to, shape the future. I resist the idea that we are to counteract what appears as a threat (Islam and the like) to our so-called ‘Christian’ freedoms with a militant response. Indeed such responses, for me, are fuel that increases the division and strength of what is feared!
I don’t think on this one that I have changed. It shapes so much of what Gayle and I focus on. We have sought out geographies, we have walked streets because of this passionate belief, and in our time in Spain on every aspect (bar one to date) of where we have gone to pray with respect to history there has been some direct sign that has occurred subsequently. Many times in the pubic arena, on TV or in the newspapers. And on the one, as far as I can recollect, that has not seemingly produced a direct sign, I don’t think we are finished with that one yet!
Yes Scotty still believes this. But there have been evolutions. Evolutions tend not to mark right angle changes of direction, but of development.