Our signboard at the front of Church is an opportunity to grab the attention for a few moments of those who are passing by on foot, or stuck in traffic by our front door. It is important to us then to say something in a compelling way to them by what we place there. We have all seen the tired signage that we all so easily dismiss.
Our signs are designed in conjunction with eco display systems, a local print house. Recently we worked on the Jubilee theme, using a quotation for HRH herself where she commented that ‘God sent….a Saviour (Jesus), with the power to forgive.‘
Last time, just after the Olympics, we used a quote from the now disgraced, but then inspirational athlete, Oscar Pistorius.
The Jubilee poster has come down now and is sitting proudly on our wall at Church now and the Olympic one was destined for the same end, so we wanted something that would mean something to us, as well as people ‘out there’. That is why we applied the quote to our own situation, and used the excellent ‘heaven’s eye’ view of the village where our building is situated as the back drop. Super-imposing the the view of the village in 1945, and the the 2012 view together to show the progress being made here for which we all thank God.
Last week however, I texted our printer and said to Dan, can you bring forward our new Easter poster and take the Oscar Pistorius one down as soon as possible. He did it same day.
I felt so mixed about this. Was I distancing myself from the person who previously I had held up as an example? All I knew was that it was just bad taste at such a terrible time to be using his words, so down the poster came, but I’ve been thinking about it.
Now, I’m not in any way involved in the case going on now in South Africa and my sympathies are firmly with those who are. I am however touched in more than the usual way insofar as the issue of our common and public profession of Christian faith binds us together for good or ill.
Looking back at the Olympics now I remember the tasteless incident for which Pistorius later apologised, when he accused his Brazilian competitor effectively of cheating his way to victory over him. All was not well, but I was more taken up, perhaps reasonably, with the dazzling 28 medals he won against the odds etc.
As the Pistorious case unfolds however, all manner of mirk it seems is being uncovered, clearly, whether he is guilty of murder or not, which the South African courts will decide and God knows, Pistorious is not without sin.
The truth is however, neither am I, nor is anyone else I know, Christian or otherwise. King David, author of ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, He makes me lie down in green pastures…’etc. arranged the murder in cold blood of a man to cover up the adulterous relationship he was having with his wife. That isn’t to say that sin doesn’t have it’s consequence though and if Oscar Pistorius did murder Reeva Steenkamp, he must pay. Does that mean however, that he is no longer, if he ever really was, a Christian?
Well, are any of us still Christians if we sin? I hope so, because we all sin. Maybe some sins are unforgivable though? Yes, one is, to reject the sacrifice Christ made for the forgiveness of sin, that’s how I understand it. So, someone might say that I sanctifying sin. Not at all, never, but I am saying and this is one of the things amazingly the kids at our youth club often get incensed about, sin can be forgiven. My sin, your sin, and yes Oscar Pistorious’ sin too. Whoever we are, whatever we have done, as HRH said, He has the power to forgive.
The Pistorious quote I chose was ‘He is the reason for my success and the one who takes me from strength to strength – Christ makes all the difference.’ Right now, I truly hope Pistorious meant what he said and was not purely paying lip service to his Christian upbringing. Right now that message really matters and matters far more than gold medals.
If he is guilty, I hope for his and everyone else’s sake, he will confess and both seek and find the forgiveness he needs and the grace to bear the punishment he deserves.
Whatever he has done, I do still believe the statement he made which I displayed for all to see, that God’s grace in Christ in the reason for anything praiseworthy in our lives, but that does not also mean He is the author of our sin.
Winning medals is great, but without the forgiveness of our sin it is all rendered meaningless, there are far more important things. Peace with God is what finally counts and that is something he may have denied Reeva Steenkamp the opportunity for, I don’t know, but I do know that if it is so, it is a matter of imponderable gravity.
Our new poster, displayed at the top reads ‘Keep Calm and Trust Jesus – because the message of Easter is too good to only celebrate once a year.’ The fact is that Pistorious was never our hope, nor ever could he be, like the rest of us he must keep calm, collect himself and trust Jesus, the only one in whom there is no sin. That’s what being a Christian finally is when confronted with the horror of our sin, confessing it, turning from it and trusting Jesus to forgive it through the immeasurable price of His self-sacrifice on the Cross to bear the punishment we deserve.
I will be putting the Pistorious poster on my office wall to remind me to pray for him and everyone concerned, especially the friends and family of Reeva Steenkamp.