It strange how small decisions, made by others, can affect us. Take this week. As you may know, we have a successful St Luke’s Facebook page. I regularly put on it prayers, stories and sayings which then automatically get sent to those who have indicated they like the page. Up until early this month we had 48 people who liked St Luke’s. But now we have only 47; someone switched their liking off as it were. I looked over the various items I had posted just prior to this choice but couldn’t see anything that might offend. It seems then simply someone had made a decision; a judgement if you like – pardon the pun.
None of this is surprising since hourly we are making choices, deciding things and making judgement calls. Out of these we form our world view which in turn dictates our attitudes and actions. And so in a very real sense we are who we decide to be.
Here then is where we can start fruitfully with the parable of the sheep and goats; the story of judgements and judgement. For, we can’t doubt surely that those on in sheep’s clothing had given prior thought to the hungry. They had made a decision about the thirsty. They had opened themselves to see the stranger and prepared themselves to act for the those unclothed. In other words, their moment by moment choices had built up into a judgement that put them in the right. Similarly those who had not maintained this chain of perception, thought and action and been left out.
Yet we could ask what makes us make the right decisions?
Well, that comes down to how we want things to be. It comes down to what we believe and what inspires us. It comes down to seeing things as God does.
And what better vision for today’s society and tomorrow’s world than that of the prophet. Since Isaiah calls for a nation of generous decision makers. He demands a community of rightful choosers. He warns against those who personally do not judge to loosen the chains of injustice, to share food and to provide shelter. Moreover, he asks two questions and these are – what world are you deciding to build and what are you doing about it?
Ah we say these are good questions – I am happy at having a crack at answering them myself. But I wouldn’t have the nerve to ask Mrs Snooks next door them. I wouldn’t dare broach them with John at the club or coffee after the meeting.
Why is that? Simply because these questions we think are too hard – too hard to ask and too hard to answer!
Years ago, when the Betty Crocker Company first began selling their cake mixes, they offered a product which only needed water. All you had to do was add water to the mix which came in the box, and you would get a perfect, delicious cake every time.
It bombed. No one bought it and the company couldn’t understand why, so they commissioned a study which brought back a surprising answer. It seemed that people weren’t buying the cake mix because it was too easy. They didn’t want to be totally excluded from the work of preparing a cake; they wanted to feel that they were contributing something to it.
So, Betty Crocker changed the formula and required the customer to add an egg in addition to water. Immediately, the new cake mix was a huge success.
Unfortunately, many people make the same mistake when it comes to “packaging” or presenting the decisions we, as Christian,s must make today . They try to make the call to build God’s vision for society as easy as possible because they’re afraid people won’t “buy it” if it seems too hard.
This is a mistake being made by many politicians and their parties this election time. But the truth is people don’t always buy pat, simplistic and cheap answers. Instead they can make hard choices and better judgements. They can be turned from dream followers to decision gifters. They can indeed be the builders of God’s civilisation. All they need is to be inspired, enthused and, ultimately, shown the vision that right decisions can achieve.
They can indeed still feel the power of that sentiment expressed by President John F Kennedy when he said at Rice University on 12th September 1963:
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
Here then is how we get others from the goat column to the shepherd’s fold. For those who have studies the rhetoric of that speech have worked out how Kennedy made front page news around the world with it. Because this speech used three strategies: he offered a beckoning frontier, he created a historical moment of urgency and he invited the hearer to live up to the pioneering instinct of the human race.
Let us use the same strategy when calling others to choose for the hungry, thirsty and homeless. Let us offer them the beckoning world that is possible only by deciding for Christ. Let us tell them they must take the ‘Kingdom option’ quickly. Moreover, let us warn them that their judgements will culminate in the judgement of what great humans can achieve and what lesser ones did not.
Since if we can go to the moon nearly 50 years ago and create the digital age in two decades, we can make Isaiah’s world in a mere instant.
All we need do is chose and chose now.