Learning from mistakes
Can good come out of evil?
I hope so, for I think that is the message of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
I forced myself to be present at the Good Friday Service at the Market Cross. I took a camera so that I could be both observer and participant. I wanted to be there because of my involvement with Churches Together, and to stand with those I respect for the way they live out they faith. But I guessed (correctly) that the service and message would be very different to my own faith. As an observer I heard comments from others watching who wanted nothing to do with what was happening. As a participant I was aware of some raising their arms in praise at the Gospel of hope. People passing by were offered a flier telling them ‘What’s going on’. Part of it read “Jesus was crucified on a cross two thousand years ago. He died to make people – who naturally live for themselves – right with God.” Participants were invited to sing words that expressed a Christian faith in terms of ‘being ransomed’ and ‘the wrath of God was satisfied’.
The next day I visited Tring Natural History Museum with my wife, my youngest daughter, her husband and their two little children. The Museum is part of the Rothschild’s legacy and offers free entry. We were confronted with magnificent specimens of stuffed animals, birds, reptiles and insects. What were my grandchildren to make of this? They are fascinated by dinosaurs, of course, and the huge skeleton of a giant sloth was impressive. But what about the extinct Dodo, or the endangered sharks? Or the fact that the Rhino had to have a sign telling visitors that the horn was not real, because of the desire of some to use the horn for ‘medicinal purposes’! Did it warn us about the dangers of our past behaviour? Did the death of all these different species serve to teach us how to live together with other life forms on our planet?
On Sunday, there was an opportunity for one or two people attending our Meeting to have breakfast together and ask questions about being Quaker. After a pleasant conversation covering things like home-made jam and beers, the questions were posed. Two Friends were asked what it meant for them to live as a Quaker. This was followed by the (inevitable) question about non-violence and the peace testimony. What about resisting a burglar with violence or trying to protect your loved ones from harm from others? Having acknowledged that no one knows how they will react until in such a situation, it was suggested that we need imaginative ways to respond which create friends instead of enemies. If the outcome of a burglary is one person in prison and the other scarred by the violation of their home, all have lost. But if it were possible to reach beyond the act to the motives and find ways of meeting the needs of everyone involved, then reconciliation could be achieved.
Can good come out of evil? Can we learn from our past mistakes? I believe the Easter message is that the answers are ‘Yes’ to both of those questions. It is true that the process involved may be painful. We will have to face up to our past mistakes and the harm we have caused. But forgiveness is possible. Some are willing to make sacrifices in order to bring about the changes.
We can learn and change, with a little help, and with love.