By Canon Mike Williams
God empowers us to be partners in taking responsibility to seek healing and reconciliation in our world. Blame is part of our response to anxiety. Sadly, we will be living within a blame culture for a considerable period. Yet God changes the moral equation each day. There is a puzzle that illustrates how God changes the equation. There are three people who have earned £17 in one pound coins for their work. Because of them contributing differently to the workload, they agreed in advance that A would receive half of the earnings, B a third and C a ninth. Repeated efforts to divide the 17 coins in this way does not work. What do you do? You take a pound coin out of your pocket and add it to those earned, making it £18. Give A nine, B, six and C two and put the remaining one back in your pocket. Problem solved.
Life is God’s call to responsibility; not just individual but collective. We are created in God’s love and given the gift of freedom to use responsibly to enhance the freedom of others. In the first eleven chapters of Genesis there are four stories: Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Flood and the Tower of Babel. Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi, suggests that these stories constitute a search for meaning in history. They are ‘a sustained and tightly constructed exploration of the concept of responsibility’ for individuals and societies.
God changes the equation by empowering us to take risks, to stand up for others and to overcome our anxiety and tendency to blame. God empowers us to refuse to believe that there is nothing we can do for the good of others. It is easy to complain and blame others. The decision not to blame others takes courage; the decision to do good takes courage. There have been many stories of loving kindness during the pandemic. Each week the church flower arrangers in a village in Dorset prepare and deliver a flower arrangement to NHS workers. On TV we saw a nurse receiving her weekly gift. She was greatly touched and felt hugely appreciated. Rabbi Sacks carries with him in his diary this well know quotation, which gives him comfort in dark days, from President Theodore Roosevelt.
“It is not the critic that counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could actually have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again – because there is no effort without error and shortcomings – but who does actually strive to do the deed, who knowns great enthusiasm, great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and how, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly – so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”
May our arena be that of taking the responsibility given to us by God to live and act out of loving kindness and not blame.