This a question I’ve asked myself a lot in the last year or so. Take these three amazing women who I went walking and talking with last week. It’s been pouring with rain in these parts (still is) and we were all getting a little stir crazy. Then somebody said ‘we need to get out’. So we did.
It carried on raining, we ate egg and cress rolls under an old Caledonian pine and covered all kinds of conversational territory ranging from the menopause, affordable housing (nothing doing) to favourite films.
God got a mention too. A couple of them have kind of ruled him out existence thanks to the writings of a certain Richard Dawkins and too much forced and dutiful church going.
I didn’t say much. Ten years ago or more I would have rushed to defend him, stated my case, grabbed the moment for a spot of evangelism.
Things are so different now. I don’t know about you but nearly everybody I walk with on a daily basis are women like my friends here. There’s not a believer in sight. And, for the time being, I find myself saying less and less that’s overtly about my own faith.
But what also got my attention was the way these three women talked about the community we live our lives in, their commitment to it, how they would like to see less division, less gossip, what might be done about it. One of them runs a youth club in the village and it’s thriving. These things have, to me at least, more than a faint whiff of the Kingdom of Heaven about them.
So where am I going with all this? Probably into a whole pile of questions. I used to think only believers had the monopoly on building something that was good. I don’t think that now. I used to think it was only believers who offered fellowship. I’m not sure about that one either (‘anyone who welcomes you, welcomes me’). And when God starts to change a place does that mean loads more people will believe what I believe? Maybe it ain’t necessarily so.
Loads of questions and perhaps there’s a case to be made for living with the tension of not having an answer. In the meantime, there’s a lot to be said (or unsaid) about walking and talking with people where we have been planted.