It is not often that the mood of our country is transformed in an instant. But the tragic death of Jo Cox MP has done exactly that.
Until last Thursday most of us were unfamiliar with the diminutive, 5-foot tall mum from Yorkshire. But we know about her now. We know of her working-class roots and her warm Yorkshire accent. We know she was the first in her family to go to university. We know that she tried to change the world, and that her efforts were not in vain. The world was changing.
It’s not just the goodness that we have lost. It’s the good things she will never do.
Jo Cox combined a powerful intellect with an unstoppable spirit. The list of charities she worked for is lengthy. She even re-directed her MP’s pay-rise to increase her charitable giving. Members of Syria Solidarity UK - to which she was deeply committed - have said 'humanity has lost a champion'.
Who knows what poverty would have been alleviated, what causes would have been championed, and what brutal authorities would have been provoked and pushed by this bright, straightforward, rising-star were she still with us. But even though she isn’t with us, the life she led contains lessons for us all:
1. We must live out our love for the oppressed
First we are reminded of Jo’s love for oppressed people. Love in the Bible is not a feeling, it’s an active verb – it’s about selfless acts, it’s about doing the best for others whether we like them or not (although I have found if I make myself do good for someone I don’t like, I often end up liking them as well. It's annoying the way God does that!).
We may define the opposite of love as hate, or even fear. But most often the opposite of love is simpler than that. It’s indifference.
We are sadly becoming indifferent, de-sensitized, and immunised to important causes such as the plight of Syrian refugees. We've seen those boats so many times. It's something we think of as being far away. We care, but not enough to do more, to speak more, to give more. Jo Cox, this non-Christian loving woman was not immunised. Let’s pray that her kind of love is contagious.
2. There is inherent good in the world, regardless of religion
Our Christian worldview goes something like this: 'On the surface people put on an appearance of decency, politeness and virtue, but beneath that we are all inherently sinful, often selfish, choosing to hurt one another.'
This is true, and yet beneath that we are all created in God’s image. The image of God within us doesn’t easily rub off. It can be tarnished and we can do things to smother it, but its still there if we look hard enough.
Our job as Christians is to find this image (it's often in unlikely places, including ourselves) and render it back to God. Some Pharisees once brought Jesus a coin with Caesar’s head stamped on it and asked if it was right to pay taxes to Rome. Jesus told them that if Caesar’s image is stamped on it give it to Caesar. God’s image is stamped in you – give that to God.
We all know people who are not Christians (and not even religious) who nevertheless consistently perform generous acts. God’s image is retained and is the reason there is inherent goodness.
3. We must value our MPs
We must care for our Members of Parliament while they are still with us. They deserve our respect and we should avoid maligning and scapegoating them. The crescendo of EU claims and counter-claims we were immersed in until Jo’s death is not because our MPs are liars. It’s because they don’t know what will happen if we leave or stay in the EU, but are pushed hard to provide answers by each other, by the media, and sometimes by us.
Yes there have been scandalous incidents in recent years involving our MPs - especially involving expenses. But I know people in my own industry who have consistently over-claimed expenses as well. The only difference is the people in my industry are not in the public eye.
If we are not careful we can egg each other on in a descending spiral of scorn as we deride our Members of Parliament. Let’s remember that by far the vast majority of our MPs are in public service for all the right reasons. They are well-meaning, invariably hard-working, and sometimes in need of gentle correction. I guess you could say, they're a bit like you and me.