John Denham MP started me thinking this morning by declaring to a conference of church leaders that you can be ‘good without God’. I’m not sure there are too many who would disagree with this- essentially God’s image is within us all so there are inevitably good works that emanate from each human being. And we see this happening all the time from humanitarian aid charities to individuals heading off to Tesco each week to shop for elderly neighbours. This is, of course, is not what the gospel addresses- it deals with our complete inability to live perfect lives. Try living a perfect life for a day. I think we’d both find it impossible, there would be plenty of video captured from inside my head that would have you wondering what on earth God was doing giving his Son for me. And that’s just for starters.
The political world is a challenging one for conveying the truth of the gospel message. Tricky because when campaigning for higher moral standards in public life we can easily seem pious kill-joys, who are detached from reality, with a liberal scattering of hypocrisy thrown in. In other words, a list of all those things the gospel doesn’t stand for. So we must do more to demonstrate love in our actions and grace in our attitudes that give a more genuinely salty flavour.
But there’s something else, too. Maybe we ought to make more of the fact that we can be ‘bad with God’. After all, a new era of union with Christ doesn’t grant us drive-thru perfection. What it does do, though, is give us instant access to forgiveness and reconciliation. And the watching world around is (justifiably) tired of pretence, it cries out for authenticity. Anything less than this gives off the whiff of self-reliance that will not only damage ourselves but give the impression that Christian living is simply another way to do self-help.