The story is told of an Arab on a freezing cold night huddled inside his small tent with his camel outside. Towards midnight the camel complained to his master of his discomfort which could easily be rectified if only his nose could be permitted inside the tent. Compassionately the master agreed. An hour or so later the shivering creature asked if his head and neck might be permitted to enjoy the warmth of the tent. ‘Fine,’ said the disgruntled owner. Another hour passed and the camel this time asks for his front legs to be permitted entry and by the time it reached 4 o’clock in the morning the camel’s owner sat shivering outside the tent whist the camel slept soundly.
This parable helpfully illustrates the dilemmas we all face in accommodating the needs and desires of those around us - friends, family and work colleagues. A visitor wanting a bed for the night, a relative needing financial help, or a relationship stepping over a moral line. But what about Christians engaging with the secular worldview of our nation? Nuclear power, pornography, immigration, abortion, conservation, medical ethics and most recently so called gay marriage to name but a few. It’s tempting for most of us to retreat into our shell, or up drawbridge and hide in the security of our church castles. Here we can find family, comfy surroundings, nice music and only the distant sound of the enemy guns. But this surely is to forget the lesson of the Arab and his camel. Powerful forces and spiritual powers work on the hearts and minds of men, and every believer is called to engage intelligently and prayerfully in hope to bring freedom to the captive and sight for those blind. Let me suggest a number of ways of how we might do that:
- Avoid caricatures. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood - Eph 6 v12. A caricature is to take one feature of a person or argument and stress it above all else. A politician is portrayed as two faced, a bank manager a greedy pig, the Muslim a terrorist, and the policeman as twisted as the proverbial cork screw. We fear such images and fail to see such people as lost and love them.
- Remember the puzzle box lid. Life can seem like a giant jigsaw and our lives one little piece that does not fit. God has saved us in this generation for his good purpose. God has a good pleasing and perfect will for your lives. Finding our place is not in passive abdication, but passionate engagement with the grand narrative of the bible, a renewal of our minds. A biblical worldview is the believers high calling and the gospel our hope for our nation.
- Beware professionalism. John Piper’s words to pastors, “brothers we are not professionals" should help us not be intimidated by the proliferation of academic letters after the latest guru writing on the family or ethics. Laws are being passed that have taken the obvious and common sense out of everyday life and instructed us that we need academics to tell us what is as plain as the noses on our faces, i.e. breast is best, smoking kills, and exercise brings well-being!
- Watch our language. The devil speaks lies, it is his native tongue. Mainstream TV, our daily newspapers, and the internet seek to blur the lines on issues such as marriage, abortion, euthanasia etc. by using language that exaggerates exceptions to make them the norm. We are religiously told we are animals, the selfish gene, and products of nature not nurture. Language changes, words and meanings change and with them a rabid political correctness that searches out those who won't sing their tune.
So beware the camel’s nose. Marriage between one man and one woman in an exclusive commitment for life may end up being called evil (Isaiah 5 v 20). Paedophilia now appears the last bastion of national consciousness but already the cracks are appearing. A recent main stream paper suggesting we change our language from calling paedophilia evil to now ‘different opinions’ or ‘people born with those leanings’ -apparently one in five men are meant to be turned on by a naked child!
The line is questioned, redrawn and the innocent suffer. It is every believer’s duty to engage in the dialogue, to speak graciously but courageously, and to fight for the age old boundary lines found in God's book.