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10 August 2020

Causes and values: what are values?

Matt Bunday Matt Bunday Church member
Causes and values: part 1

“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.” (Proverbs 10:9)

What do you think when you watch the news? Anyone could be forgiven for burying their head in the sand at the moment, but what if we choose to learn more about what is important within ourselves and to consider what else we could do to help society?

In this two-part blog series, I share my thoughts on values (part 1) and how we can all apply them (part 2).

What are values?

Values are, “The principles that help you to decide what is right and wrong, and how to act in various situations” (Cambridge definition). On a basic level, values call for us to follow laws and respect others as a society. However, what are our individual values as Christians?

By following the required laws and social contracts within society, we could be forgiven for feeling that our values are adequate and don’t need exploring any further. However, what if I put it to you that this might be only half the battle, as while our obedience to society is obviously a necessary and important ‘right’ action, there is scope for us to do more.

There are unfortunately some examples in our history where morally reprehensible acts had been legal for years. The rise of the National Party in South Africa in 1948 led to Apartheid (legislation that upheld and expanded segregation on the basis of race), some women (but still not all) were only given the right to vote in the UK in 1918 despite Parliament being active since the 1670s, and slavery through the 17th and 18th centuries led to millions of people being torn away from their families and sold as ‘property’ - a horrendous act of inhumanity that still has quite obvious scars today, and was obviously wrong.

Correcting these acts and moving forward often took the work of thousands of people across the world shouting “Enough!” – sometimes for years on end. These voices over many years have led to new values which state that everyone has a voice, must be free and must be treated equally. The legitimacy of these values are not really questioned today, yet in our history they have often been missing. Christians are called to follow the laws of society (Romans 13:1-5), and engaging actively in society allows us to reach out and support our communities, but is God asking us to do more? Are we listening to values that are anchored in his truth which then helps us to shape wider values in society today? Sometimes, great acts of positive change start with just one person who used their voice to shout, rather than to whisper. Could this be us?

Whether you get your inspiration from the West Wing boxsets that are always doing the rounds at church, or through watching Greta Thunberg standing toe to toe with the most powerful man in the world to remind him that she would quite like to grow up in a world with breathable air, there is ample evidence of God placing natural values in our hearts, sometimes over a period of years, and these often go deeper than just social conformity. After all, God calls us to be in the world, not of the world (John 15:19). To me, this means get stuck in and act!

The other way to look at this may be to consider what makes you frustrated or angry. In my pre-Christian days, my frustrations were often just those of a mid-20s single person not fulfilling his potential in life. However, as my walk with God developed so did my understanding of why it was okay to be angry and how this could be useful. I felt the calling to get involved in politics at the start of 2017, but before then would often not even vote. A combination of significant clear injustices and financial inequality conflicting with my values just crossed a line for me that refocused my priorities.

In hindsight though, I think God was stirring up a fire inside me for years prior that has now become the backbone of my political work and which has given me an opportunity to serve in a greater way than I ever realistically thought possible.

I still often despair at watching the news nowadays, but I feel that my frustration has been replaced by a certain sense of calm, because I am now part of the solution rather than a helpless victim. I know that God is using me to make things better for others and I know largely who I am and what my values are, and that really is a great feeling.

Why not have a think about what your values are and then tune in for part 2, where we talk about how to apply them.


Photo: Red Robin photography

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