SWIMMING AGAINST THE CURRENT
Taking the way of Jesus seriously in a broadly alien culture
If you enjoy river or sea swimming, you may have sometimes found yourself swimming against the current. The struggle characterizes the personal or group experience of promoting unpopular beliefs, values and conduct.
You don’t have to be a Christian or devotee of any religious faith to feel impelled to swim against the current. The ‘call’ to do so is to all.
Progress in science depends hugely on scientists who question accepted ideas. The world has been hugely enriched by artists, composers and designers who defy tradition and introduce fresh thinking. The story of politics is punctuated by women and men who, against the odds, have campaigned for change.
The saga of the Church has been shaped, in good measure, by Christians (like Tyndale, Luther, Constance Coltman and Archbishop Reomero) who have objected, at great personal cost, to the beliefs and practices of their day’.
While Jesus sometimes (gladly or reluctantly) went with the flow, mostly he swam against the current of religious orthodoxy and social attitudes. It was his brave opposition to both secular and religious authority that led to his conviction and execution.
The holy energy of God that enabled Jesus to swim against the current also empowered his followers. Apostle Paul continually swam against the currents of alien beliefs, vested interests and dissolute behaviour – and was regularly mocked, arrested and imprisoned for doing so. No wonder he urged new disciples: ‘You should not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind’ (Romans 12:2a).
What might swimming against popular currents mean today? There are many massive challenges but here are three.
‘Indulgent living’: the incessant pressure to buy more, eat more, drink more, holiday more – and its terrible impact on our health, well-being and environment.
‘Social fragmentation’: hostile attitudes to immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers – the attitude that white born and bred Britons are innately superior with it divisive impacts.
‘Unbridled capitalism’: the personal profit motive that too readily degenerates into all-consuming avarice and ruthless competition with its anti-social consequences.
Jesus constantly calls us to let the holy energy or spirit of God transform us… but this often means swimming against the current!
Revd Edward Hulme