It being a day of rest again, (it seems to have come round again very quickly). I have been trying to apply a bit of perspective to what I’ve done over the last few weeks and reflecting on a verse from the New Testament that we were looking at in Sunday School with the young people this morning. In John 10:10 it says – “The thief only comes to steal, kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and may have it abundantly”. Whatever your take on the spiritual life it’s worth pausing sometimes to think about what an abundant life looks like.
Over the last few years I have been greatly encouraged by books that seem to come along at just the right time. I am a fairly voracious reader and couldn’t imagine life without at least one book on the go. In the last twelve months I’ve read three books that were published between the early seventies and late eighties and have been struck by two things; a) how prophetic they are and b) how little attention people tend to pay to prophets. The three books are:
Small is Beautiful by EF Schumacher (1971)
The Greening of Africa by Paul Harrison (1987)
Ripening Harvest, Gathering Storm by Maurice Sinclair (1988)
Paul Harrison chooses a Swahili proverb to preface part one of his book – The Challenge. The proverb says:
“Do not borrow off the earth for the earth will require its own back with interest.”
Maurice Sinclair creates a memorable image of the world’s population crisis when he writes; “An overcrowded ship may take on extra passengers without sinking but the further this process continues the more important it becomes that the passengers should be distributed evenly and that their movements be carefully restrained. No such conditions apply now on the overcrowded earth.”
The prophets in the bible had a pretty torrid time – stoned, imprisoned and generally abused for telling people things that they didn’t want to hear, (but probably knew were true). Modern day prophets may not be physically abused in the same way but the process of vilification and ‘head in the sand’ responses remain much the same. I like to look at the publication dates in books because it helps me to evaluate what the writer is saying. You could put 2011 as the publication date in these three books and the warnings would still be relevant and mostly unheeded. In the forty years that have passed since the publication of the first of the trio we don’t seem to have learned very much.
Maurice Sinclair also notes that “… whatever balance of optimism or pessimism we prefer, and whatever direction a day’s headlines may propel us, we have to try at least to face both the menace and the promise which hover over us. Can we come to terms with the fact that we live in days of accelerating change and accumulating crises? And what in global and personal terms does this mean?”
What indeed? As an optimistic Christian with a firm belief in the kingdom on earth as well as in heaven I don’t think the world will go belly up or that the good ship mother earth will really capsize. Our battered Landrover will lean over a long way before it tips over. The sensible thing to do is drive it within its limits. The earth requires the same careful stewardship.
For me an abundant life is one that means everybody has enough to eat, enjoys good health, has a secure home that doesn’t leak when it rains and has good relationships with family, friends and neighbours. It doesn’t seem especially extravagant but it doesn’t seem to be the way that many people live – certainly not where I am now. Whatever your take on the thief, (or thieves), something is amiss in the world, and many millions of people are being robbed of the abundant life. There are no easy answers. I count myself fortunate to be here, doing this work and believe that the community that is growing here will enjoy an abundant life in the future - especially if we can carry on winning the war against the stalk borers, striga and environmental collapse, and, most optimistically of all, if we can really learn to love God and our neighbours.