The Man For Others
by Paul Walker
A great deal of Christian theology is speculation - speculation
about the nature of God, about exactly who Jesus of Nazareth thought he
was, about how we can communicate with God.
We then speculate yet more about how we are to act in accordance with
what we believe about all this speculation.
All that speculation is brought into sharp focus for me at Christmas. I
find it increasingly difficult to speak in traditional terms about God
becoming man in Bethlehem. So as Boxing Day dawned this year, I was
relieved that Christmas was over and I could enjoy a few days with my
Then a wave came out of the Indian Ocean, a fascinating wave which
physicists can easily explain as the result of an under-sea earthquake, an
exotically named tsunami. First accounts said that over three
hundred people were dead. Today we know that the numbers may be counted in
the hundreds of thousands and that many more will die as a result of
It is hard to speculate about anything, much less theology, when the
world is faced with such a scenario. Millions feel paralysed by their
inability to do anything to help, so money pours into the coffers of aid
agencies. I hear a few words of sympathy from the churches, and we know
that admirable work is being done by agencies such as Christian Aid.
Yet I also note with embarrassment that this tsunami will not exercise
the churches for long. They seem to have more pressing issues.
For many churches more effort than anything else is put into getting
people to come to Church. Evangelism seems to be the number one priority.
Once people are in church, they seem concerned with issues that look
somewhat esoteric to outsiders.
Please forgive the following crudeness I use to make my point strongly.
Most churches seem obsessed with penises, especially when it comes to
their ministers. Whether or not you have one seems crucial. And if you do
have one, into which orifice it is put, and with what intention it is
used, is clearly seen as vital. Such issues look likely to split the
I have never known a church to split over its aid budget.
What saddens me more than anything is what all Christians know - that
inasmuch as we can discern what Jesus of Nazareth actually said, care for
the poor was a priority.
Let us remember that of all the words attributed to Jesus in the
gospels not one concerns getting people to come to church. Nor did he ever
mention homosexuality. Yet he told a rich young man to give all his money
to the poor (Mark 10). He implied in his parable of the king at judgement
day (Matthew 25) that how we react to people such as those affected by
this tsunami will determine how we ourselves are judged.
For those who speculate about God, disasters like this tidal wave can
be a great challenge. For either God is all-powerful and allows such
events - in which case he is not all-loving. Or God is all-loving and
cannot prevent this from happening - in which case he is not all-powerful.
For myself, I�m not sure what I mean when I speak about God. I would
certainly never aim to speculate about God's nature.
But when I hear of natural disasters I am reminded of what first
attracted me to Jesus of Nazareth. In his own small world he seems to have
put healing, love and care for the poor above theological speculation,
above scriptural rules, and above the political and religious authorities
of his day. In calling his followers to go out with nothing and heal the
broken (Luke 10), he called them to follow that way of life.
I�m not sure what many of us can do about this earthquake beyond
praying and giving.
But I am pretty certain that how we react to this and events like it is
of far more concern than whether we believe that God is a Trinity or that
Jesus died for our sins.