A few musings from St Kilda

Monday, 11 May 2015

Two Tribes

It was the biggest Ipswich-Norwich derby for many years in front of a full house at Portman Road. The video gives you some inkling of the atmosphere and the game was exciting. It was the 98th time the two teams had met in the league and  important for both teams, as they fight for a play-off place. At the final whistle it was a 1-1 draw, which was disappointing for us Ipswich fans.    However, sport apart, this derby has a darker side.

Violence in the past meant that twice the usual number of Police were on duty, many more stewards were hired and the City of London Police's mounted division was there. As far as I know there were few incidents to mar the day, but after the match I watched "fans" trade insults and one or two even spat at one another. Now that's a bit pathetic. To use the old adage; it is only a game.    But of course to some it's not. Norfolk - Suffolk rivalry can be identified as far back as the North Folk and the South Folk of the Kingdom of the East Angles.

We all have, and like to have an identity. I'm Welsh and I'm proud of it. I'm British too. But should that be used as a means to separate myself from others,  discriminate against them, insult them or even use violence? In our liberal democracy, most of us would say "of course not".   However we live in a competitive world where success for one can mean loss for others and animosity.  Whether it be football, nationality, race, sex, age, class, or occupation, people find all sorts of excuses to separate and discriminate.  It's all tribal and can lead to awful consequences.

What's God's view of this?  He shows no favouritism between people(Romans 2:11) and that's particularly true in their relationship with Him, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).   We're all the same to Him.

You'll notice I didn't mention religion in my list of things that make people resort to tribalism.   When people think they are right and that their views are endorsed by God (or gods) it can make them the most dangerous people on Earth.    Religion, even in the name of Christ has resulted in terrible atrocities as we know only too well by just looking at the news.   But is this what Jesus taught?  Of course it isn't.  Jesus came to bring peace between people and God and people and people.     He had all the reverse values to tribalism and these lie at the heart of biblical Christian tradition, and at the heart of a liberal democracy as well.

But doesn't religion divide?   After all Jesus claims to be the only way to God.  Surely that divides Christians from the rest?   Not really, because being a Christian isn't, or shouldn't be a mark of separation between them and the rest of society.     Quite the reverse, Christianity is inclusive - Jesus invites all people without exception to follow Him.   Let's repeat the Romans 3 verses by adding verse 24:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Separated from God?  By birth yes, but each of us have the choice of believing, trusting and following Jesus, because God offers it to everybody as a free gift through following and trusting Jesus.