I have been thinking much about the fragility of the world in recent weeks. The departure of UN troops from Afghanistan and the rapid takeover of the country by the Taliban has revealed the fragility of human efforts at peace-making. We pray earnestly for that troubled nation but cannot help but be apprehensive for its future. During the pandemic, we have seen how vulnerable we are in the face of a deadly virus. The climate emergency has shown our planet’s fragility. In the midst of all this we sense our Church is also fragile and sometimes our faith is too – “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!”
We have sometimes told ourselves a story of invulnerability, particularly here in the West, in which our wealth, power and technological knowhow will always enable us to overcome every obstacle. Of course, scientific advances have conferred great benefits on us, but our recent experience has demonstrated that our world is a fragile place, and we are fragile people.
For Christians, this is a discipleship matter and so we reaffirm our belief that the only lasting foundation upon which we can build is the loving faithfulness God. Psalms 46 and 103 are key texts. We do not “put our trust in princes” (or armies, or technology or wealth). Our hope is in God, “the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them - the LORD, who remains faithful forever” (Psalm 46). We give up on that false story of our power and invulnerability and put our trust in the God who “knows of what we are made”, who sees our fragility and whose steadfast love is from “everlasting to everlasting.” (Psalm 103).
In recognising our fragility, and by putting our trust in God in this way, we do not instead descend into fatalism, a que sera sera kind of faith that absolves us of actively seeking a better world. Because God is compassionate and “knows of what we are made” and because God loves this fragile world so much, then we too must be compassionate and loving after the pattern of Jesus. In such unstable times, we need to practice kindness, forbearance and hopefulness more than ever. As Christian disciples, we remember that the world, our neighbours, and we ourselves, are fragile and must be handled with care.
Bishop of Stafford