CHRISTIAN COMMENT: What’s under the surface?

We don’t notice grass much, do we?

Grass is simply there. If we’re gardeners, it’s the stuff that grows where we don’t want it to. It sprouts easily on waste ground. It’s always there as a background – lawns, parks, hillsides. At times, it’s so obvious, it’s almost invisible.

But it has its own terms for growing properly. If we want grass – whether the stuff of lawns or the farmed grasses that we eat – to be at its best, there are some necessities.

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The right soil – full of nutrients, the right amount of sun and rain, the ground not too compacted so that roots have a chance and water can penetrate... That’s what’s right for grass. That’s its righteousness. It all goes on out of sight but if it’s not present, results will be poor.

Eh? Isn’t righteousness to do with morality, right and wrong, being good?

Sure but everything has a righteousness that needs to be in place if it’s to grow to its best. All the talk about moral righteousness is just to do with us humans. The way I am underneath the surface will determine whether I grow into the best version of me. Or a stunted version – scruffy and malnourished. Just like grass.

Which is why this week’s news is so very disturbing. Maybe not surprising but definitely disturbing.

“Home secretary to address Commons on new investigation into sex abuse allegations linked to senior Tory politician” That was the Guardian yesterday morning (Tuesday) and just about catches all the latest on that story. Except that it happened in North Wales.

I wrote just recently about the tide of “revelations” that has been coming in over the past 10 years. There’s hardly time to register the impact of one wave (Jimmy Savile, for example) before the next is upon us.

What is going on under the surface of our nation?

Are we surprised at the poor health of this country if there’s so much that is – by almost any standard – unrighteous lurking under the surface waiting to be dug up? And I mean “poor health” in every area of our national life – physical, mental, emotional, financial, social – you name it.

God says “Above every other consideration, look after the state of your heart (both the ticker in your chest and whatever it is inside you that makes you tick as a human) because out of the heart come all the issues of life.” And He was referring to everything – the way we do the economy and politics to the way we look after our pets or feed our children. And He caused that to be written in a collection of sayings (The Book of Proverbs) that were meant to become as familiar to us as “Don’t let the grass grow under your feet” or “Make hay while the sun shines” or even “A stitch in time saves nine”. Just simple rules for living, to help us get life right.

We seem to very good at digging up muck that lies under the surface of others. How do we deal with our own unrighteousness, the things in us that stop us being the best version of ourselves that we can be? Grass needs a human to give it the right conditions for flourishing. We are able to do a lot for ourselves – stopping this, changing that, developing the other.

The thing is, how do we know what those changes should be? How do we get this “righteousness” that helps us flourish?

Jesus says, “Come to me. I’ll teach you. I’ll give you peace. I’ll allow your soul (your heart) to prosper. I’ll give you a life that’s as satisfying as you can ever imagine.” He doesn’t give us religion. He gives us himself.

He’s our righteousness.

By Nigel O’Dwyer, who leads Goring New Life Church, and lives and works in Worthing.