THE SIMPLE A.F.L. SOLUTION TO SOCIETY’S WOES
By the late nineteenth century, the rate of women dying during child-birth had reached epidemic proportions. Louis Pasteur proposed a simple solution and wrote it up as a scientific paper for medical doctors to consider and at least worth a trial. But unfortunately, for the tens of thousands of women who died, they didn’t! Their main reason for rejecting it was that it was “too simple”! But by the early twentieth century the rate of women dying during child-birth had reached alarming heights. In desperation, someone read Pasteur’s paper and thought that it was at least a try. And it immediately and dramatically reduced the rate of birthing mother morbidity! Pasteur’s solution? Doctors and nurses need to wash their hands before they delivering a baby! Sometimes complex problems really do have simple solutions.
But oh, that God would speak and open His lips to you,
and that He would tell you the secrets of wisdom!
For He is manifold in understanding.
Our society is also faced with seemingly complex problems. We have an alarmingly high rate of suicide, a growing alcohol/substance/drug abuse problem, a disgracefully high rate of domestic abuse, the highest rates of internet pornography ever, a disgracefully high rate of sexual abuse of women (note the recent #metoo movement) and children (note the recent Royal Commission in Australia), appallingly deteriorating mental health, and a rise in family breakdown and marital divorce. To make matters worse, many of those institutions which used to prevent or alleviate these problems are themselves in decline, struggling for resources, or closing. These include – various clubs, charities, and sadly, churches.
¶ “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you.
Fortunately though, this is not our situation – which means that we are still equipped to help our society prevent or alleviate some of these ills it battles with. And while our society’s problems may seem too complex and too big to overcome, I hope to show you that the simple A.F.L. solution is precisely what our society needs (and is looking for) and it is the church which is actually best positioned to deliver it.
COMPLEX PROBLEMS ARE OFTEN SOLVED WITH SIMPLE SOLUTIONS
The story goes that a town was having a continual problem with people being swept downstream its main river. At first it was just kind-hearted passers-by on their bush-walks who dived in to help the screaming person battling to avoid drowning. But there were so many of them, that the Council voted to employ a life guard and station them at the riverside. But soon he too was unable to keep up with the demand of saving drowning people being swept away to their deaths by the river. The Council voted to fund the building of a permanent ambulance station near the life-guard’s station to make things more efficient in getting the drowning victim to the hospital as quick as possible. But even more people had to be rescued. The Council decided to fund the building of a hospital next to the ambulance station to further improve efficiencies. They then hired a General Manager and an administrator to help run the precinct. Pretty soon though there were government funding cut-backs, so it was decided to make the life-guard’s position redundant so that the other positions could remain being funded. As the now retrenched life-guard gathered their things and headed up the river, they took a leisurely walk over the foot-bridge and noticed a $5 plank of wood was missing which is why all these tourists were falling into the river. After obtaining a replacement plank and installing it in the bridge, a government report later identified that the only cause they had been able to find for so many near-drowning victims was the direct link to employing a life-guard since when his position became redundant the drowning incidents suddenly stopped! This is not meant to be a parable about how government works, rather, it is meant to highlight that by sometimes going “upstream” from a problem it is possible to find a very simple solution!
Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
Second Timothy 2:7
THE SIMPLE A.F.L. SOLUTION
I think we, our church, has something that we regularly enjoy and a vexed world desperately wants – and needs! I think the fact that we treat it all too casually at times, means that we don’t treasure it enough, or realise how much we should share it. In fact, we are sometimes so cavalier with these treasures that we leave them lying around gathering dust. Let me explain.
Everything we do as followers of Christ flows out of who Jesus is.
¶ Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,
Second Timothy 2:8
As we consider who Jesus is and His attributes of kindness, mercy, justice, intolerance of evil, deep spirituality, thankfulness, concern for the marginalised, compassion for the weak, and mercy for the broken, we too begin to develop these traits. I think we could classify nearly all of Christ’s attributes under these three headings: acceptance, forgiveness, and, love. I would conclude by highlighting what should be immediately obvious about these three groupings – that it is precisely the lack of these three qualities infiltrating the lives of every broken person in our society which is at the root of all society’s woes, despite society thinking they already enjoy them.
By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
HOW A.F.L. MEETS EVERY PERSON’S MOST BASIC NEEDS
Without genuine acceptance, people feel alone, misunderstood, rejected, and prone to social anxiety. Jesus accepted people – especially the outcast and marginalised. He demonstrated acceptance of people who had only every really experienced rejection for most of their lives. He went to the hiding demoniacs (Matt. 8:28). He waited in the heat of the day for the scorned woman – and talked freely with her (Jn 4). He honoured the prostitute who washed His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair (Luke 7). He touched the lepers who hadn’t been touched for so long (Lk. 7:22). Christ’s acceptance involved the giving of time, dialogue, and appropriate touch. The world offers fake acceptance when it confuses acceptance with endorsement. Christ’s acceptance of the woman caught in the act of adultery, did not involve accepting her as an adulteress but as a woman created in the image of God. Acceptance by Christ never involved Him tolerating a person’s sin.
Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
We, the accepted by Christ are called and enabled by the Holy Spirit to be agents of God’s acceptance of those who feel lonely, ugly, awkward, unwanted, or unworthy.
Forgiving is confused by the world for acquitting. To be acquitted is to be found innocent. Christ does not find any of us innocent! This is why we each need His mercy which enables us to be pardoned. Without genuine forgiveness a person often just throws themself deeper into sin in the hope that it won’t hurt anymore. The final instalment of the Godfather movie Trilogy powerfully illustrates how futile this can be. The murderer is wracked with guilt so murders again and again and again all the while hoping that he won’t feel guilt anymore to no avail.
We, the forgiven by Christ are called and enabled by the Holy Spirit to be agents of God’s forgiveness toward those who feel guilty, ashamed, unclean, or unworthy.
Love is a verb (a doing word) which produces a feeling. The world swaps these around and comes up empty every time. Consider First Corinthians 13:4-6. Count how many actions flow out of the decision to love are in that passage. The world confuses lust, infatuation, or desire for love, and then wonders why they “fall” in and out of it so often! Christ’s kind of love involves commitment and a cost. It is other-focussed. It is grounded in rightness, goodness, and truth, rather than mere attraction, lust, or desire. Christ’s cross is the ultimate example of love and we who have experienced Christ’s love cannot but help to have our hearts transformed and lives realigned to care for others in committed way that will cost us.
We, the loved by Christ are called and enabled by the Holy Spirit to be agents of God’s love toward those who feel empty, lost, unneeded, or unworthy.
Ordinarily I would close these weekly pastoral epistles by urging us to reflect each of these traits this Sunday. But there’s no time to waste. We need to commence right now – and keep doing them each Sunday for as long as there is breath in our lungs! The solution to society’s biggest, most complex ills, are as simple as A. F. L. – Acceptance | Forgiveness | Love.
Your servant in Christ,