Your free gift! A guilt-free January!

Published: 18th December 2023

“Tis the season to feel guilty, tra-la-la la la” – welcome to January. The manufacturers of sweet and fatty foods are counting their takings from Christmas, and while they’re having a break another crowd of salespeople come along to take advantage of what the last lot made their profit from. Join the gym! Start that (strangely expensive) diet! Get yourself in shape!

So – we pay to eat and drink too much, and then we pay again to try and recover from the after effects. I think there’s something odd – even wrong – going on here. Big companies work really hard to tempt us, to get under our defences, to entice us into buying things we know aren’t good for us, but it’s each of us as individuals who takes the blame for giving into temptation. Compare that with the story in the Garden of Eden: Adam and Eve suffer the consequences of eating the apple, but the serpent has a pretty hard time of it as well.

We live in a strangely unbalanced society. Most of the power is held by organisations, public and private; but all the responsibility seems to land on us as individuals. The answer to every problem is we should learn to do better. No wonder a lot of us end up feeling guilty, all too aware that we’re trying really hard and still we haven’t turned into the wonderful people we see in the TV adverts.

Yes, we do all have responsibility for our own actions. But that’s not the end of the story. We human beings aren’t solitary animals: we naturally live in community, and we’re influenced by each other. The choices we make about how we live our lives will always reflect the things we’ve heard, what we see others doing, the messages we get from our society about what’s the right or wrong thing to do. In an age of mass communication, a huge amount of it advertising, all of us are being bombarded with messages which aim to make a profit for the companies behind the ads. They aren’t so bothered about whether it’s really the best thing for you to do, or buy.

So how do we resist? Well, I think that’s one of the things churches are for. Churches should be places in which we hear a different sort of message, in which we support each other into ways of living which are healthier and happier. Contrary to what a lot of people think, mostly outside the church but some inside, churches should be places not of guilt but of love and forgiveness. The church tells a different story, a good news story about each of us in which we’re not left to our own devices to save ourselves, but given the gift of God’s Holy Spirit to bind us together into one body, the body of Christ. That’s a body with space for all of us, a body in which we are formed together into the image of Christ. That’s something a gym membership can’t promise!

+Jonathan Clark
Acting Bishop of Wolverhampton

Page last updated: Thursday 21st December 2023 12:25 PM
Powered by Church Edit