In Matthew chapter 18, the disciples ask Jesus who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. In response Jesus doesn't rebuke the disciples for pursuing greatness. Nor does he tell them that an ambition for greatness is inappropriate. He does something far more unsettling. He commends the pursuit of greatness, but then presents them with a revolutionary view of what true greatness looks like.
Whenever a diagnostic category begins to blinker us, or even to blind us to the many other things going on in a person’s life, we have mis-stepped. Our detailed engagement with a person’s problem won’t be a sign of sophisticated understanding. It may in fact be a sign that our thinking has become simplistic. We have reduced this person to their diagnosis and we have lost sight of all the other things – especially the spiritual realities – that are also true of them.
Responding well to the experience of loss will be the focus of this year’s national conference in March. We will, of course, be considering how hope in Christ transforms an experience of loss. But before speaking, we must listen. Those offering comfort must first attend to the experience of loss.
Here is sin that arises not from forgetfulness, nor from wilfulness, but from some kind of incapacity. That presents us with a rather different way of thinking about sin. Not our usual: ‘God expected one thing, I chose to do another and in this I committed sin’. But a much more nuanced failing that is more inability than iniquity.
Sometimes people get stuck. And sometimes those trying to help feel stuck as well. It is a frustrating experience for both when nothing seems to be changing. At such times, stepping back and taking a fresh look at everything is often the wise thing to do.