Have you ever had those times when two or three things that you have done in a week suddenly help you to understand something of what God might be saying to you? It shows you a different facet of yourself or God and you are transformed by the experience.
This happened to me a few weeks ago; I was taking a group of senior citizens from church on a day out and we visited a small village near where I live called Eyam. You may never have heard of this tiny little village in North Derbyshire, but it is famous for one thing – it is the only place where the plague of 1665 broke out outside of London. Many people in the village died as they made a decision to cut themselves off from everyone else, so that the plague would not spread to the rest of Derbyshire. Under the leadership of the vicar of the church in the village the people of Eyam decided to put themselves in quarantine, to save the lives of others. In doing this they were signing their own death warrant. Many people in this small village did in fact die of the disease; whole families were wiped out as a result.
Around the same time I was listening to the news which was full of the riots in London and what made it even more poignant for me was that they were taking place in my home town of Enfield. It was sad to see riot police protecting the place where I had grown up. They were standing outside the very shops where I had spent my weekly pocket money. I was struck by the contrast of these two experiences that I had in the same week. One of a selfless act for people they did not even know and the other a frenzy of greed and self-centeredness. The rioters did not think about those around them, the businesses they were damaging, the homes they were destroying, and the people who were injured as a result of their actions.
These are two very stark extremes, but it got me thinking about my own life. When do I act with self-centeredness, greed and a disregard for the people around me, rather than doing what God is clearly asking me to and put others first? When do I want my own way in situations and choose to do anything in order to get it? What would it mean in these situations if I acted more like the people of Eyam and put others needs and well being before my own?
What does it mean to obey Jesus’ words to ‘Love one another as I have loved you’? (John 13:34) What would that look like in practice?
Jesus also said ‘Greater love has no one than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’. (John 15:13) The people of Eyam decided to take this literally, but we will probably never be put in this extreme situation, but what does it mean for you and me?
So in a moment of reflection I asked myself is my attitude more like that of the rioters than the people of Eyam?
Help me to see when I am behaving in a self-centred way in my life and give me the courage to do something about it. Help me to take the words of Jesus seriously when he said ‘love one another as I have loved you’ and apply them to every area of my life, that I might see the needs of others and walk with them in their need rather than focusing on my own wants and desires. Amen
Shron Prior is co-founder of the Sophia Network, and is a freelance trainer, mentor and consultant