The letter below appeared in the Church Times this week. It seems to me to be a very useful and helpful comment on the current alarms, expressed in some sections of the Church and the media, about recent cases where Christians in the UK have alleged that they are being "persecuted" when they are not allowed to wear signs of their faith with their uniforms at work. As Jesus says, people will know we are his disciples by our love, not by our jewellery...
From Canon Charles Jenkin
Sir, — While I sympathise with Shirley Chaplin’s distress at being required to remove her crucifix by her employer (News, 9 April), her resistance is fundamentally misplaced and very far from a genuine upholding of Christian faith. I wonder how sound her teachers and advisers are.
Jesus is absolutely clear in the Gospels: Christians are to be known for their loving and self-denying service, not their religious zeal, and this is how the world will know they are God’s children. We are warned that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter the Kingdom, but those who do the true will of God (Matthew 7.21). Hence, Christians will go the extra mile and turn the other cheek (Matthew 5.39, 41). They find no need for outward forms of piety, but pray in secret (Matthew 6.5, 6). They are taught that the greatest among them are those who are willing to be the slaves of all (Mark 9.35).
Jesus went on to be the greatest example of this teaching in his death on the Cross. Moreover, he revealed such loving, self-denying service as the true character of God, revolutionising worldly ideas of the Divine. When Jesus calls his followers to take up their cross, this is what he means (Mark 8.34). Christians are called to make an exhibition of their faith, not by their fervent religiosity (like the Pharisees), nor simply by personal loyalty to Jesus, but by the quality of their loving, self-denying service.
In the wider context of the marginalisation of Christians in the UK (real or supposed), this is a perspective of fundamental importance. Christians are called to serve God’s world in the particular way of Jesus, which is the true way of God, rather than simply promoting themselves or their faith communities in his name.
Other religions may find particular clothing or symbols or privileges to be of vital importance. But Christians are called to a different way, and to trust God for the outcome; for this is the Easter promise.