In an era when we are all acutely conscious of the cost of gas and electricity, and Power Companies are replacing Banks as Public Enemy Number One in the media-led vilification stakes, two thoughts occur to me.
One is to ask myself how I would feel if I was working for one of these institutions when the media spotlight shone so brightly upon them? The media would have us respond to such institutions as we would a pantomime villain and boo them every time they appear. But they are not just institutions. People work for them. People work hard for them. People give their lives for them: electricity supply repair staff have one of the highest work-based fatality rates of all occupations but do we give them a thought (or a prayer) when we complain about prices, or about power lines being down after a storm? Isn’t it interesting that when the media want us to feel sympathy they interview ‘Barbara’ the pensioner who is experiencing fuel poverty not ‘Jane’ who works for an electricity company and is scared to tell people where she work for fear of their reaction?* Let’s resist the temptation to focus on faceless institutions and remember that people whom God loves are affected on all sides of a ‘story’.
And the second thought… We are told that a sizeable proportion of our electricity consumption is for gadgets and appliances on standby. If we all switched everything off completely when we weren’t using it and allowed ourselves a bit more time for it to warm up or boot up when we wanted it we could save ourselves a lot of money. Part of the problem is that we like our ‘instant on’ lifestyle but we don’t want to pay for it. So instead we complain about how much our electricity bill is and blame the profiteering by the faceless companies *boo* (see previous paragraph). And we conveniently excuse ourselves from culpability.
This is not meant to be a political bloggage, nor is it defending price rises if they result in increased profit that enables companies to pay greater dividends to shareholders when the poorest in our country have to choose between heating and eating. But let’s be a bit more ‘savvy’ about how we respond to what we are fed as news-consumers / propaganda-receivers.
One of the most compelling events recorded about Jesus was when a woman was dragged in front of him, having been caught in the act of adultery. It was during the Feast of Tabernacles, when the people of his day would spend time in makeshift shelters to remind themselves of the journey through the wilderness as the Hebrews escaped from Egypt. Because they were in these makeshift shelters it was presumably not very difficult to recognise that something illicit was happening inside. Aside from wanting to ask why only the woman was dragged in front of Jesus and not the man, I have another question (to which I will return in a moment after a bit more narrative).
So Jesus was confronted by a crowd that was ready to carry out a summary execution by stoning (which was actually prohibited by the Roman occupying forces) and the conundrum of what to do. If he sanctioned the stoning to back up the Old Testament Law he was in breach of Roman Law and also lacked his famous compassion; whereas if he stopped it he was showing disregard for ‘God’s Law’ and thus could be discredited as a Rabbi. That was the trap which was laid for him.
So he stooped to the ground and started writing / doodling with his finger in the dirt. What did he write or draw? We don’t know. When they insisted that he give his verdict he told them that the one who was without sin should throw the first stone. And he carried on doodling in the dirt. One by one (and I suspect rather shamefacedly) the crowd dropped their stones and melted away quietly.
When Jesus had finished drawing he looked up. He asked the woman where her accusers had gone and I suspect her tear-stained face showed the first glimmer of hope as she said that there was no-one left. Jesus told her to change her life and make a fresh start, refusing to condemn her or condone what she had done.
And here’s the question that I postponed from the narrative: why didn’t Jesus tell the crowd to look at the woman and feel compassion for her rather than to look at their own life? I think it might be because the crowd had objectified the woman so that she represented all that was wrong in the world that they could legitimately hate. She was not a person: she was sin; she was adultery; she was unfaithfulness; she was evil. And those things needed to be eradicated, they were wrong, they could be condemned. The crowd-frenzy would not have been diffused by asking people to look her in the eyes because they would not have seen a person. They would have seen a faceless corporation – Evilco.
What’s a free sample of Jesus supposed to do in circumstances like that?
Be blessed, be a blessing
*Fictional people created by me to illustrate my point.