19th April

Go With The Flow

When working with the Jews I live like a Jew in order to win them … when working with Gentiles, I live like a Gentile in order to win Gentiles …Among the weak in faith I become weak like one of them, in order to win them. 1 Corinthians 9: 20, 21, 22 …

Someone asks ‘Surely a Christian should stand against current trends in order to uphold the values of the Gospel rather than to go with the flow?’ Wherever contemporary values conflict with those of Jesus, that is certainly true. But have we examined how much in our church ethos is a matter, not of values, but of cultural taste? St. Paul was the first person to confront evil boldly, yet it was also he who gave a mission model of becoming one with different groups and cultures (in all things except sin) in order to win them to a relationship with Christ.

Celtic Christians, too, were clear about sin, but unlike Christians in other parts, they sat loose to churchy culture if it was alien to their people. They had their meetings at the places where the people normally met; they built their places of worship on the places where people had previously worshipped as non-Christians; they carried on customs such as circling farms and homes, but now they did this in the name of the One True God. In the years following Patrick in Ireland the shape of church organisation reflected that of the clan. Instead of organisation being imposed from outside, it was like a wheel, in which the clan welcomed a Christian community as its hub.

Celtic Christians resisted the idea that Christians should cut off the long, flowing hair which Celts felt was their glory, and for which Celtic Christians could give glory to God. Evangelists such as Aidan and Chad resisted pressure to use the form of transport that top people used but which would have distanced them from ordinary people. They used their feet, not a horse, to make visits. Aidan resisted pressure to impose all the Christian laws on unchurched people before they had come to know and love Jesus and the milk of his teaching. When groups of Christians gathered at natural meeting places, they would often play folk music, and would join in with other folk singers whether they were Christian or not.

Creator of diverse cultures
Brother to all peoples,
Flowing Spirit
help me to go with the flow
of all that is good and human around me.