When we farewelled the Duffs, I gave the family presents. I hope they were meaningful items that encourage wise living and godly behaviour.
In light of the Deputy Prime Minister’s last fortnight, I think our 2017 studies of Proverbs and the emphasis on wise living are particularly appropriate. As I thought about ‘a Barnaby’ of a fortnight, I found myself reflecting on my present to Will Duff, a magnetic compass. Objective truth, morality and deciding right from wrong have become unbelievably hard to do. When truth, morality and right and wrong were known and accepted, it was like reading a map. The terrain and road quality might be questionable but the direction to get from A to B was broadly achievable.
Barnaby’s last fortnight has been a great example of the huge cultural earthquake that has rendered the map useless. The roads have been swept away and the landscape before us is broadly unfamiliar. As we seek to navigate life, behaviour, standards and attitudes, our conversations either go round in circles, or we find ourselves sounding ‘judgmental’, or we just long for the good old days when we knew how to be and what to do.
We all know what Barnaby has done but the responses are so mixed and confused. And who are you to cast judgment? For many though there is a disquiet. We don’t have a right in secular Australia to judge behaviour but there is a disturbance that our senior leaders are so all over the place, so cavalier, so fallible and vulnerable and so without direction.
Jesus lived in a world like this too, but he was the embodiment of the cultural earthquake. He shook everything up and brought longed-for purity and holiness to cultural and societal crushed hopes and dashed expectations. He managed to be clear about standards while retaining welcome, inclusiveness, reconciliation and salvation. And the powers-that-be hated him for it. Firm about his convictions and generous in his care of people, that was where his compass pointed.
No one is immune from doing ‘a Barnaby’. We are only as good as the next step we take. When we are weak and heavy-laden, Jesus says, “Come to me and I will give you rest.”
But here is the thing! Jesus doesn’t say, “Do what you like and I will rescue you.” Jesus doesn’t say, “It doesn’t matter.” Jesus doesn’t say, “I didn’t really mean it.” Jesus never said, “I will not pass judgment on your actions.” He even judges thoughts! Jesus says, “Come to me with your life, your burdens, your sadness, isolation, greed, lust, avarice…” and on and on, and he will forgive you and work with you on it. He will be our compass.
There is no map any longer. Jesus’ compass bearing is the word of God, the Bible. He embodies the Bible lived out in ordinary life. He understands its teaching fairly literally. It’s fairly simple but hard to do. You cannot do it on your own. You certainly won’t like it all or agree with it all. But you can’t navigate without him.
I think Jesus’ model gives a reasonable way to live and lead. The scriptures are tough and unyielding at times but they are pastored by the Chief Shepherd who would lay down his life for the sheep. Clear, firm but pastorally generous, kind and restorative. Jesus is my true north and this is how I try and read my compass. It’s about integrity not being right.
People might not like what you think but better to be clear with good reasons, then generous, loving and restorative towards people, than standing for nothing so you are left stranded when a line needs to be drawn.
So, how do you navigate life?