It seems apt at this time of year, where there is a lot of remembering going on, to think about the past, and in particular people from the past. One thing I have noticed is that people from my past don’t always stay there, and in particular having changed to another church locally, there are an lot of familiar faces.
In fact, there have been one or two folk where I’ve had to pause for a minute, and think to myself about how we “signed off” last time we saw each other. Are there any unresolved issues kicking about – which always mattered, I guess, but are a little bit more immediate now I am their curate? Thankfully so far the answer has always been “no”.
Maybe its just me, but I find it very easy to want to “write off” relationships, especially where they are professional rather than social. My natural reaction when I get bad service is to walk out and say to myself “I’m never going back there again”. Even better if I can deliver a cutting parting shot that makes it clear exactly how I feel. Or to quit a job out of frustration and stick two fingers up at the boss on the way out. Or to say deeply hurtful things as a romantic relationship ends, and vow never to see or talk to them again.
As with other things, being ordained brings what was always true into sharper focus – that we cannot live this way. The theological point is that the other person is made in God’s image, and loved and cherised by Him. The practical point is that I might go to a person’s house for a funeral visit, and discover that they are the person I swore at in the restaurant the night before!!
Anyone who follows The Way, who calls themself a Christian, is God’s representative on Earth. We are each Christ’s ambassadors. I don’t believe that we have the luxury of burning our bridges, or “writing off” relationships. How we treat other people is taken as a proxy for how God feels about them. We never know when someone from our past is going to randomly walk into church, or join our Alpha group. What will their reaction be to seeing us there – perhaps realising for the first time that we’re a Christian? How is our ambassadorship reflected in the last conversation we had?