Whenever I think there are people who are not consistent I quickly make sure I do not check myself in the mirror. I, of course, would never be inconsistent.
Anyone reading between the lines of the posts I write will probably pick up that I voted ‘remain’ as far as the UK and the EU is concerned. Not because the EU is perfect, nor that it is a chosen vehicle to bring in the kingdom of heaven. There are many reasons, I am sure, to vote ‘leave’. To add into the remain / leave vote our Christian convictions about the future unfolding of prophecy just complicates it all.
An observation I have carried for a number of years is how difficult it must be if one holds to certain view of the future. Some of the Christian negative response to such issues as the European Union is to do with a view on prophecy relating to the end times. A revived Roman empire (of sorts) with space for the rise of a prospective world leader (antiChrist) is a view.
Now comes the complication! If I assume for a moment that was a valid view the question then becomes very challenging indeed. Do I oppose that happening… and set myself against what has been prophesied? Does not seem a good way to go… but if I go along with it all as that would align with prophecy… then I could find myself supporting an antiChrist shape? Of course with the EU vote I could take the view that the UK was not to be part of that revived shape (or at least north of Hadrian’s wall… oops, another politically divisive possibility) and so then I would have a win / win situation. The win / win would be that the UK (or at least Scotland) does not submit to the rising shape of antChrist, and I leave the rest of Europe to be the fulfilment of prophecy. Sorry – a win / lose scenario.
Just glad I have a simple approach.
I do not see the future laid out in Scripture… other than Jesus is coming and we live in the light of that and seek to align ourselves, and everything we can influence, to heaven’s values. So I have no need to wrestle with such thoughts as an antiChrist and a revived Roman Empire. Phew!
Powers are present, they are fallen, but can be influenced. The inevitable does not have to manifest provided we are involved.
Self fulfilling prophecies are easy to spot. ‘Don’t be involved it is evil.’ I respond obediently and do not get involved, then watch as it gets worse. Seems a connection – we remove the salt and there is no limitation placed on what was there.
Prayer content seems simple. Let your kingdom come.
I like the simple approach. I don’t need to wrestle with the conflict of seeking to oppose what I believe God has ordained.
The façades are opening. It is not simply that we will be able to see the bizarre nature of the Western economic system that only operates if there is debt (debt will always result somewhere in slavery and at some measure an inevitable eating tomorrow’s bread today) or the paucity of public political debate but we will be able to see some very deep roots… unless we close our eyes to what is being revealed. The familiar can close the façades down, although I wonder if we (believers) will even be able to do that this time round. And beyond the familiar there are factors that hamper our sight. Those will be found in our commitment to a shallow Gospel that does not challenge nationalism, patriotism, patriarchy and the deep inequalities in society. If we do not heed at this time that the Gospel is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, nor male and female we will find our eyes will not even see what is before us and we will simply look for ‘normal’ to be restored.
What is being exposed in the days that lie ahead (and I am sure much more can be added to this) are:
greed and consumerism misogyny protectionism that demonises the ‘other’
The inevitable result will not just be trade wars, but war. It will not simply be a major shift to extreme right wing policies (as we see rise in Europe) but the establishing of a neo-nazi totalitarianism that will eventually be seen not be favourable to faith, including that of the Christian faith.
Yesterday I read an article in the Guardian (Spain Turkey far right Vox culture war) that makes for both insightful and frightening reading. In the name of values how an anti-feminist position is central to what is taking place. The goal in Europe the article says is:
Not a new Europe, not even an old Europe, but a Europe modelled on an imaginary, mythical past. A monolithic Europe dedicated to halting and reversing progress.
‘Might is right’ has to give way to humility being the path. I remember many years ago taking a prayer week where the working together of the body of Christ was a challenge. Everyone had their own agenda and each expression was more ‘right’ than the other. As I prayed that morning I sensed strongly that a pathway of humility was the only way forward. One of the leaders who was participating in the week was away on business in London that day. He came back saying that he had been praying about the lack of unity, and as he came over a hill and could see the city in front of him the Lord said to him ‘humility is the path forward’.
As a male it is very hard for me to recognise misogyny. Is it in me? I would be foolish to claim that it was not… that is the problem so often. We assume we are free but fall painfully and blindly short.
I am more convinced than ever that there is a fresh discovery of the Gospel. Yes there will be understandings of the cross that Tom Wright describes as ‘pagan’ that will have to be jettisoned, or at least radically revised. There will be perspectives concerning the work of the Spirit that will expose the gap between being ‘born again’ and yet harbouring and fostering old fallen creation values. At the heart of all this will be an incredible new vision of humanity. This will never take place without feminisation. Whether the church leads in this or not is unimportant. The lead might well come from the world. It might well come from the political world. In Spain the dormant seeds of Paul’s Gospel are in the land (and in Turkey, referencing the Guardian article, the fruit of the seeds have been cut off – the seven churches of Revelation… but the seed remains). Maybe they are beginning to germinate at this time. Maybe this is why there is such a push for this one-cultural Europe. Maybe the enemy is moving because the Spirit of God is hovering. Certainly we need to push for this again. We have our battles in Spain. Our focus is on the political scene, ever grateful for the women who have humbly taken their place.
If there is any value in this post I dedicate it to the memory and testimony of Rachel Held Evans (photo at top… check out her writings). Too young (37 years old) to die. But the seed will continue. (Health Updates). One newspaper described her as a ‘hero to Christian misfits’. Come on you misfits!
The general election for Spain took place on Sunday and now we wait to see how a government will be formed. There is no one-party overall majority and this both opens up the possibility for some great coalition possibilities and not so good ones!
There are any number of articles on line about the election. This one from the NY Times seeks to put it in the context of bucking the trends in Europe.
Some years back, from left of field, we had the strong impression that the Lord was asking us to take responsibility for the political shape of Spain. Left of field as I can just about spell the ‘p’ word. However, when that kind of responsibility meets incompetence it gets one thinking. What is ‘politics’ and what does it mean to take responsibility.
I like the term political shape. There are political parties and I appreciate there are people who are members of a specific party. However, normally we are those who ‘I like this party on this issue but not on that one’. It is always further complicated by our faith perspective. We can be very critical of sharia law but happy with ‘Christianised’ law. Issues such as a stance on abortion, or on same-sex marriage often sways the Christian vote. If only it was as easy as that!
Political shape I understand to be where healthy choices and opportunities become a greater possibility. Everything in Scripture is centred on people. Created in the image of God surely focuses us toward humanity. God’s desired address is in the midst of humanity so societal shape is very important to him. The health of all aspects of society is when a shape is held that enables people to move toward their destiny – that destiny ultimately being helping others to the release of who they were born to be. It is not ultimately ‘the economy, stupid’ that should pull our vote but ‘the people, stupid’ that should help us determine where the ballot paper is marked.
Overall shape – our responsibility
And this is where I see the role of the body of Christ. People live within a context, a geo-societal context that has been shaped by history which gives ground to the demonic powers. OK… now I think I am getting somewhere. We might not know very much about politics and some of that is best left to those who know much better, but there is so much material in Scripture about the powers. If there needs to be a healthy people-centred political shape then there needs to be an overall ‘powers restrained’ shape in which that healthy politics can develop and be expressed. That I understand as being our responsibility (and beyond politics, to economics, health, education etc.). I do not see this as trying to get to the top of the mountain to influence but in going to the deepest places to cleanse. Our desire is not to see Christians occupying the positions, indeed some of the greatest joys we have is when one could take speeches by those who are atheists, remove their name, give the speech to a believer and ask them to underline the Jesus-themes in it.
We took this current election very seriously. Spain has had a challenging past, with many issues undealt with. Cataloña is not a recent issue, and it will not and cannot be resolved by a referendum nor the refusal for a referendum. As in many nations a handful of the powerful (one politician says 20 families in Spain) shape what goes on. There is economic control that shapes the lives of those who are not seen but are simply fodder for the status quo. There is considerable corruption. The (former) major party has something just under 8000 major scandals against it, and one person tweeted that post Sunday they have more MP’s in prison now than they will have in the parliament.
Thank God we are seeing a shift. A shift has to take place because if the history is cleansed the demonic does not have the right of presence they had before and what was hidden or undealt with comes to the light. Social transformation is the barometer of spiritual change.
I am not of a so-called right wing persuasion and like all others uneducated in a field am opinionated and biased. There are those who are better educated than I in politics and more ardent in their commitment to Jesus who would vote much further to the right than I do, so my comments that follow are not about ‘the right’ but about the rise of something that is very disturbing – often called the ultra-right. In Europe it is so disturbing, and it can also pull in the Christian support. Normally there is within it a call to protect our values (and borders), our Christian heritage, family values etc., but there is no sight nor place for the ‘other’. The anger expressed is not a righteous anger but a cover for hate and a legitimising of demonising whole groups of people. Spain’s background of course was through and post the Civil War of the 30s in Fascism. And the sins committed were not simply on one side – at the door of the republicans is placed the slaughter of all-but 7000 Catholic clergy, so we cannot simply demonise one side.
Some months back we salted the entire surround of one of the party headquarters in Madrid. In the election campaign it was a little more than amusing that the façade that they placed up on their prominent building came down causing the road to be closed for safety reasons! In this election their representation has been halved from what it was. They will probably never recover as a party in Spain. For this we are grateful as their history of lies, deception and scandal reaches unbelievable proportions. At the same time there has been the rise here of a party, VOX, that espouses a nationalism, anti-immigration and an anti-feminist stance of the extreme kind. They wish to make certain media illegal and also certain political parties illegal. They have pulled on in their rhetoric on the ReConquista and the spirit of Columbus. The party is not our enemy but what they are pulling on we have been praying into. It is personally very galling that the last ultra-right representative in the Spanish parliament lost their seat in 1982 but once this new parliament is formed there will be 24 such representatives. Five of the 37 seats available in Madrid will be taken by them.
This party made a significant breakthrough in the recent regional elections in the south of Spain and we have stood in the main gate into Madrid from the south a few weeks ago to declare ‘not here’. And now? I take it personally.
The shifts in this election are very significant, perhaps the shape of politics in Spain will never be the same again and although the extreme right have not made the level of inroads it wished I remain very disturbed.
A few weeks ago we came across a photo of a republican poster from the Civil War. It will soon be on our wall here.
The poster reads:
Fascism wants to conquer Madrid. Madrid will be the tomb of Fascism.
Fascism is to be given no space in Europe. The soil in Spain is supposed to be cleansed so it can have no power here, and Madrid is to be its tomb. So five representatives? An insult.
Over the past days we have been four times in a part of the city where we would not normally go. We have been pulled there circumstantially, and again tomorrow we will be there. When we left last night to meet a couple over there Gayle said there has to be a reason. Well we have just found out that is where the fascist tanks rolled in with a great slaughter into Madrid. Why are we being pulled there circumstantially, because there is a tomb in Madrid for fascism. Interestingly this was the area where we already resisted the plans to rebury Franco. Battles won are great, advances that should not take place are more than annoying, we are all in this for the long haul, but this is our watch, and when our watch is over the political shape will be one of the markers as to what happened on our watch.
Gayle has great insight to these Spanish elections and here is a short resumé that she put out yesterday.
Far right got seats but not what they hoped for. We have to face them now which is a bummer but like the boar (reference to a dream) it is boundaried now and can’t pull off the past.
The PP (the main historical right political party) after years of corruption and mafia like behaviour is completely broken. They flirted with VOX and the people said ‘no’.
Podemos did enough just to stand in a place of influence not power. We (Martin and I) still are praying for that coalition.
A HUGE sign for me was the crowds outside PSOE (who won most seats) shouting for this coalition of Peter (PSOE) and Paul (Podemos) and using Podemos slogan of ‘It can be done’.
Pablo Iglesias prophesied there would be unexpected signs… well for another party to shout out the Podemos slogan ‘si se puede’ – this has to be a massive sign.
June 10th stays in the diary as the moving out of Franco’s bones. A space and date we are guarding.
In the previous posts I have given a few windows into our attempts to cover issues from history through going on site, praying, acting and declaring. It is great to be able to connect some dots along the way, and very satisfying to see the path from 2008 (piracy, betrayal and murder) through to the day we moved to Madrid. Of course there is no way anyone can claim that one’s actions at any point were key. Maybe it all would happen anyway, or any ‘results’ were down to some other event. Faith is faith. We all have to do what we believe is right. There is no voice coming from heaven saying that God has never found anyone so obedient and smart in all of history! The great aspect also concerning faith is that it is not based on getting it right. Sometimes we have just got to do something that resonates with our spirits and the situation.
It would be great if we could show that when we faced up to the very real possible betrayal and loss of money that it had an effect into the original issues (piracy…). We certainly hope so!!
Ultimately we want to see substance, but signs are an important element on the way. Symbolism / signs in Scripture are important and seem to be two-fold in significance:
they point to the substance, and so are a real boost to sight. We are to lift our eyes when a sign appears so that we can see what they are pointing to. That is a real help, but beyond their obvious purpose they
draw to themselves the substance they are pointing to. This is so key. When the sign takes place they accelerate the shift, and act beyond a time marker. Something actually moves.
Signs can be external to ourselves, but so often the sign will manifest much closer to home. There is a reason for this. When it is close to home we have leverage, and leverage means we can move something way beyond our weight. This is something we see so often in Scripture with the prophets. They become signs and symbols, living through in their bodies and circumstances what is in the land. This was not to make them victims but to give them an authority to shift something in the land.
Of course there needs to be a caveat in all this. We can be in danger of making everything a sign… NO NO and again I say NO! Yet there are times when we have an inner conviction that what we are experiencing is a sign. Or we focus in prayer on something in the bigger picture, and then at a personal level we begin to experience the same but at a smaller scale.
Something small and personal can shift something big and societal.
40 days in the wilderness… and 40 years… 400 years… all is ready to see a shift.
There are two errors to avoid:
Taking on a victim spirit – this is happening because of the filth in the land and I am experiencing this because the church is so passive and lukewarm.
Proclaiming how victorious I am in Christ, getting personal freedom and missing what else could come through.
Both of the above are focused on ‘me’. Poor me or victorious me. The promises of God are corporate promises so that life can flow through us, not simply to us.
We have consistently had to battle through at a personal level whenever we have pushed into corporate issues. There seems to be three possible outcomes in those times.
1) a personal breakthrough but nothing changes on the wider front. 2) a breakthrough on the wider front but the personal circumstances do not. 3) a breakthrough on both fronts – that is the one we pull for!!!
Of course the third option is the one we all like to have 100% of the time. There are so many factors that mean we do not quite live in an ‘ideal’ world (as if!) but at least let’s kick in that direction.
The challenge of recounting stories is that the impression can be given that the story teller lives above all of the rest of us, with ‘I did this’ and the heavens opened and… Scripture is full of stories but not all the stories are full of ‘success’. Indeed success is not the measure, but faithfulness, and if we are faithful somehow there is an effectiveness. Success is my story; effectiveness is there is change somewhere else and I often don’t know how I contributed to it. A success syndrome means we have no need of a final assessment day; effectiveness means that on that day we will hear a voice something along the lines of ‘well done’.
So now in danger of success story-telling but seeking to outline the principle of ‘close to home’. I have recounted before of rupturing a disc in my back. Those things happen and there are so many testimonies of healing. However, it was not too long before we realised there was a major parallel between my physical experience and the land. This focused our prayers two ways – personal and land.
The final shift came when I had my back tattooed with a compass over the problem disc and the words ‘true north’ on the spine. Symbolism for sure. The problem disc was clearly where Madrid is positioned on the land and where ‘true north’ needs to bring about an alignment. (For those who want to think about the practice – I once read about someone who spat in mud and slapped it on a blind person’s eyes… just a little out there?)
We do not come with great success stories and any breakthrough is always challenged. The latest book from the Fascist wing of Spain is roughly translated ‘Vertebrate Spain’. Now there is a challenge!! That is life. A great move forward today, a kick back tomorrow… but the faithfulness of the saints is being stored up in heaven, the materials that God is building the New Jerusalem with. (Apparently ‘with’ is not how to end a sentence, but ‘with’ is a God word so no apologies there!)
Michael Heseltine, the 86 year old ex-Deputy Prime minister, as a pro-European (project) writes a passionate article in the Guardian. He bemoans that:
£350m a week for the NHS has become a £39bn severance cost to leave the EU, every penny of it to be borrowed by the current political generation, but to be repaid by the young people coming after them.
And pulling on one of the central desires for the EU to continue he writes:
Now, I look back over the years: 70 years of peace in Europe, 50 years of partnership between the UK and the rest of the EU. The fascists have gone from Spain and Portugal, the colonels from Greece. Now we have 28 democracies working together on a basis of shared sovereignty, achieving far in excess of what any one of us could individually. Never forget that it was the memories of Europe’s war that laid the foundations of the European Union today.
Enough of Michael for now, as I need to recover a little never having quoted someone from those political persuasions for some time! I have been, and remain, hopeful that somehow in the Brexit mess there can be some sort of reformation of the EU. Maybe this is hypocritical of me as I (in theory) see a Jubilee principle of tear it all back down otherwise we simply give a mandate to the Babylonian tower building that promises to make us great (again). So in my hope that there might even yet be a reversal of the Brexit (personal hope) I realise that my bigger hope for Europe might only come through what could well be a much larger collapse.
There are tensions we live with. Once we know what we believe we are responsible for we look for signs that indicate the direction we are moving in is right. We look to make sure certain things do not happen on ‘our watch’. I look at certain things in Spain where there are huge potential backward steps and at times am mentally preparing an apology speech. That is very genuine – and one of the reasons I am typing in the night hours this post – and yet I realise that God is not finished when I want to resign!
I am of the opinion that we should be able to hold certain things back, and in that sense am very happy to accept failure, for after all failure is not all it is cracked up to be, and certainly comes nowhere close to being at the same level as the sin of prideful success. Yet if we ‘fail’ it is certainly helpful to acknowledge that and to re-align oneself to whatever God is doing. He does not abandon passions like I can!
Indeed it could be argued that failure was one of the best gifts God dished out!
In Spain we have rejoiced in the government passing the rule that they will exhume Franco from the Valley of the Fallen. Another sign of dealing with the past, and recently a book has just been published documenting the 296 concentration camps in Spain, active post-Civil war, for those who were not pro-Franco. We watched last night a 99 year old man with such a sweet spirit who had been within one of those camps from age 19. Great signs of uncovering and bringing things to the light. We also watched one of the main party leaders who has a good chance of taking the reigns post-April 28 say that if that takes place and they win that they will ensure that Franco’s remains are not removed. If that happens my hands will be up in apology. We will have failed. But God will still be active, and some failure is only to show us we have to go deeper.
So much is taking place in Europe. Heseltine writes that the Fascists have gone from Spain. ‘Ojala!’ But Michael there is such a rapid rising of that in Spain and elsewhere and Steve Bannon who is active in Europe comments on the rise of Vox noting that not only have they become visible but have shifted the other parties that claim the ‘centre-right’. They have had to change their language and position, in other words they have shifted to the right appealing to the popular vote. They have adopted language (and policies?) that echo language and policies that former Fascists would resonate with.
Vox, I am sure is pulling in the Christian vote and support, the language of ‘family values’ and ‘anti-abortion’ seems to be enough at times to ensure that. But the policies of automatic expulsion of all those who are illegal immigrants, with anyone entering the country never being eligible for papers; the right of citizens to bear arms; certain parties being made illegal! What kind of country develops from soil that is tilled in that way?
The Brexit. We should have been 3 days away from the big leave, but as the debates continue who knows where it will end. There are crises all around and even if the ‘B’ word is sorted out it will not herald the end of crisis. Surely that is one of the primary reasons for the church to be present – salt hindering evil growth and promoting good growth. And if it all ends badly it is not the end. We will be able to find a God of hope amidst the dust of death.
Keeping alert on the watch is important. There is no ‘ideal’ we are aiming for, but there are directions we are pushing for. It is great to know – and a very important hermeneutic – that the law never claimed to get it right. The laws were helpful pointers in the direction to go. The law could be summed up in ‘love’, but the full set of laws could not spell ‘love’. Only the deep incarnational commitment of God can ever spell ‘love’. Love for God and for neighbour was Jesus summary. The incarnation closes the gap between God and neighbour, for God moved into the neighbourhood. Further the NT refuses to credit to us a love for God when we do not love our neighbour, and when neighbourly connections are redefined along the Jew – Samaritan divide we are truly challenged. So if I am to love God with all heart, soul, mind and strength there really must be a very big horizontal pull on me. And that horizontal pull also calls for a watchfulness.
Dreams are a very common occurrence in the narratives of Scripture and play a key part in releasing understanding and revelation. They have proved to be so for Gayle and I on different key occasions, helping us navigate our way through situations and giving clear guidance to what we should be looking for. There are books that can give us some understanding about the world of dreams and how to interpret them, and it is always great to learn from those who have familiarised themselves with the Scriptural and practical side of dreams. I have known Rachel Harris for 20+ years and she has had a passion that we might learn how to harness the power of dreams so that we might be better equipped in our walk with the Lord. She now has a site already up and running, and as it develops will be a great resource to go to on a regular basis. Click on the image and it will take you to the site:
Rachel is both visionary and practical – a great combination! She writes:
Through my site, I will show you how you can start to understand the power of your own dreams and introduce you to ways of starting your journey with dreaming. In my blog articles, I’ll show you a behind the scenes view of how I use dream interpretation to help people understand the messages and visions they receive…
I am not sure that any of us fully grasp and understand the work of angels. If God by the Spirit is present everywhere why do we ‘need’ angels? Yet Scripture is full of references to angels, their interaction with people and they are presented like us as fellow servants of God. They carry out important missions for God and for us. From personal experience there is always a difference that is tangibly felt when angels are explicitly present. Their arrival often brings about a rapid shift in the atmosphere. When we had our offer on a third possible apartment in Oliva the owner had told us not even to talk with him. The estate agent said that in 14 years of working the area he had never experienced the negative reaction we were receiving on this and on a previous property. He suggested we were attracting it! I replied with that could well be possible, but stick with us and it will come through. Nothing changed until the day we sensed we were to connect with the angel of Cádiz, whom we understood was called Gadir (one of the ancient names for the city). We did so and as we left the location within the hour the phone rang and the estate agent’s opening words were “I don’t know what’s happened but the owner has just contacted me to say ‘tell them they can have the apartment'”. Maybe it would have happened anyway… that is so often the way with God. He leaves us to decide whether it was a maybe or we make the connection and learn something from the experience. An important part of connecting with the angelic seems to be location. We went to a specific place in the city to connect on that occasion and we also returned there just a few weeks ago again to renew the connection over another task.
Location, and often location that is liminal, is key. Jacob encountered angels when leaving and when entering land. Boundaries are always important. Another aspect that is very key is that of hospitality.
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2).
This seems to be a reflection of Abraham who welcomed strangers into his home to discover later that the visitors were in fact angels. The opening of our home might lead to the visitors being angels, or there is an opening for angels as a result of hospitality. (I appreciate that it might not be possible to open one’s home for a variety of reasons, but generosity of heart to the ‘stranger’ is always possible.)
We do not have to understand why God uses angels when our theology suggests God could just do what needs doing, but if this is God’s chosen way we would be wise to just tag along for the ride. (Maybe also this might just highlight that our theology is somewhat off at this point?) The outworking of angelic manifestions might not be directly experienced by us but was brought about through us for angels do not just come for us to give us a nice feeling or a testimony, but work for those who will inherit salvation (Heb. 1: 14). In Acts Peter has a confusing open vision but Cornelius gets the angelic visitation and explanation. Interestingly this happens through a home that has been opened for hospitality.
There are times, I suggest, when angels manifest themselves to people in human form. I have testimonies from people who have come to a place for the first time to be told ‘great to see you again‘ and to be shown the gift they left behind the previous time they were there. Fellow servants. Hospitality and generosity of heart unlocks the work of angels.
So many principles… what if a country opens its doors to strangers? What if a country were to close its doors?
He suggests we have to zoom out to see a different picture, or at least frame the conflict differently.
But because I’m zoomed out, I’m also seeing Hezbollah (not Palestinian), and the Russians and Iranians (not Palestinian), and the Islamic State-affiliated insurgents (not Palestinian) on our border with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. I’m considering the disastrous result of the power vacuum in Syria, which is a 90-minute drive from the West Bank.
And an aside, nothing to do with the above, we are in Madrid. With salt purchased ready to go to some places that need a good old cleaning up. And yesterday we should have completed all the final payments on the apartment. Successful up to the final point! We turn up at the registry of properties, some 30 minutes in the north of the city, to be informed that there is a document missing from the seller, so that needs to be resolved. If not resolved in 30 days… property registry to our name does not complete… sure that would not be too smart, but we think there will be a resolution.
The following verse contains quite a God statement spoken to Abraham:
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you (Gen. 12:3).
The last part is easy. The true seed of Abraham, Jesus, is the one through whom all the earth is blessed, regardless of ethnic background. The former part could be taken at a simple level and applied to Abraham. Given the election of God of Abraham all who bless him will be blessed and those who do not will be cursed. It is often though understood to not simply be an attitude toward Abraham but toward the seed of Abraham and this can be backed up by adding the words that Balaam spoke:
May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed! (Numbers 24:9).
So it is probably right to include the descendants of Abraham in that original God statement. Settled then? If anyone criticises Israel (today’s Israel) then they are in trouble. However… the prophets spent a lot of their time critiquing and even criticising Israel. The nation was often spoken of in challenging terms and the criticisms can be summarised under two main headings – criticised for not trusting God as Provider nor as Protector. So blessing Israel cannot mean no criticism. And that was to a people still seeking to be a covenant people, with some major differences to the secular state of today.
I am not Jewish, nor do I have a focus toward that ethnic group; I can easily acknowledge that they are ‘beloved because of the patriarchs’, but the continuation of their call is what interests me. If blessing Israel was key maybe a good way to approach these texts is to ask what did it mean to be Israel, for as Paul says, ‘Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children.’ Not all of ‘Israel’ are ‘Israel’. That debate is what fuelled the sects within the nation, not too different to – ‘well of course they are not proper Christians, just going to church does not make you a Christian, but unless you are…’ Israel, special nation, was called for the sake of the nations. A wonderful privilege to be called into a unique relationship but with a unique responsibility for all that lay beyond its borders.
Bless Israel. But what if Israel is not being Israel? Ultimately all those who are in Christ are descendants of Abraham, and it is this aspect that is of real interest to me. How do we shape up? Are we (the church) here for those beyond our borders? Don’t curse Israel. Bless (true) Israel. But Israel and all those who live from that calling – live up to the calling. I am sure even when we have not done too well (and when Israel did not do too well) God has a soft spot for the descendants of Abraham. He understands it can be pretty tough at times living up to that non-self-centred calling.
If we live up to our calling and those around bless us there will be blessing flowing to them as we live for them; should they curse us that clearly would not be too smart.
I will post a little later today on something (from my perspective) with a little more substance than this one. So to explain the pause… and to tie to the previous post on being a ‘privileged’ immigrant.
This month, so far, we have managed to clock up in excess of 40, and probably nearer to 50 than 40 hours, of either filling in forms, going to a government department for an interview complete with filled in forms. Today was a good day. A few days ago we had a visit to the tax office to seek to get back excess tax paid in 2017. No cannot do that – main reason being Gayle is not a resident in Spain! (Mental note to self – must work out who is the imposter!)
Then tied to seeking to get Gayle registered as a permanent resident (we were already working on that on a parallel track with the national police) we had to get our wedding certificate legally authorised by the British foreign office, then translated in a centre approved by the Spanish government for translation… the police office is 10 miles one direction, the translation office 10 miles the other, drive between, pay translation of 40€ and foreign office £45, all to receive a card. Yesterday left for translation office (2 hours). Today back to the translation office, off to police station… then a big hit as without an appointment Gayle got her piece of card – permanent residence.
All the above kinda explains what we have been up to (we are also in process of changing our driving licenses – that is a 1 hour drive away and involves a three step process). Meanwhile life for those who are immigrants, often not by choice, and without our privileges? They probably would not have the privilege even to reflect back on the various processes and would have long since given up on counting how many hours had gone into their probably unsuccessful attempts to get whatever papers that might make their lives a little easier.