Whichever side of the Cummings/Johnson furore you’re on, can we all agree on the following 10 propositions?
Incredibly, I think we can.
These ten seem to be some of the standards by which we’re judging. Some may be cited to implicate Cummings, some to defend him, some to indict the media. But all of them are appealed to by all sides at various points. We seem to have common ground on what ought to be our standards.
1. You should not be ‘wise in your own eyes’. There is a law above.
2. The ‘spirit of the law’ is as important as ‘the letter of the law’ (sometimes more so).
3. There is complete equality. Whatever your station in life, ‘we are one’.
4. Hypocrisy is intolerable.
5. Self-justification is ugly.
6. Admitting your errors is a strength.
7. Rulers are not above the law, they should put themselves under it.
8. Leaders are ‘servants’ — ‘ministers’ even.
9. No-one should ‘lord it over’ others.
10. Self-sacrifice — even of an innocent victim — can be the very noblest act.
At this point you might think I’m a prosecutor in the case against Cummings. That’s not my intention. For a start, some of these standards could be appealed to for his defence and/or for an indictment of the media and ‘the mob.’ The reason I list these ten is not because they are helpful to one side or other. I choose them because of three factors: 1) They are generally agreed on. 2) They are thoroughly biblical, right down to the phrases used. 3) They are totally bonkers.
I mean, really! Everyone — from kings to serfs — is equal? Leaders are servants? Owning your mistakes is a strength? Nuts! In the Roman Empire they went around saying “Strength and Honour” (I know this because I’ve seen Gladiator three times!) Back then, pride was a virtue. Humility was a weakness. How on earth did we get the idea that lords should not ‘lord it over people’? I mean that’s kind of what lords do, isn’t it?
We’re all standing on the Bible, hurling verses at each other. We’ve just forgotten the references.
Well, there was this guy. And he insisted that he is the Lord. And he told us this bonkers stuff like "the first shall be last." Then he lived it out, serving the scum of the earth, towel in hand. He was murdered with complicity from the mob, the moralists and the mighty. But apparently this was the way — the way down was the way up. And on Easter Sunday, the last became first and birthed a movement with an extraordinary, upside-down vision of the good life.
We are the heirs of this movement, whether knowingly or not, whether inside the church or not. And so here we are 2000 years later. We’re all standing on the Bible, hurling verses at each other. We’ve just forgotten the references.
On an unacknowledged level, we are united that the way of Jesus is both the standard and the way forward. But without wholesale embrace of the way of Jesus we don’t have the tools to transcend the division. Namely, we refuse to lay down our self-justification, to appear equally as sinners before heaven and earth and to receive the Lord’s covering. No, instead we take the law, resist the gospel, and continue with our secularised Bible-bashing.
Pray to God we find another Way.