‘For this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you as an example, so that you should follow in his steps.’ – 1 Peter 2:21From James Griffin:
2021 is upon us …. Hurrah! We’ve been told that by the end of 2021 we can broadly expect life to return to normal. Phew! But what is ‘normal’ and is that something to get excited about?
Well if your memory of normal life is broadly that of accumulating possessions, attending social occasions, leisure activities, having a long-term secure income and benefitting from stable relationships I can understand the desire to return there, and fast. Who wouldn’t?!
But I don’t need to tell you that for millions of people, including some perhaps reading these words, ‘normal life’ is not something to get excited about. 2020 has been tough on the so-called ‘western dream’ – thousands have lost their jobs, countless marriages have ended, governments have accrued eye-watering debts and stories of anxiety, loneliness, fear or hopelessness are all around.
I chatted to a tearful delivery driver at my door the other day who says the only people he speaks to in the world are those who briefly open their front door to receive a parcel. He says “delivery” and if he’s lucky, they say “thanks” before he climbs back into his van for the next drop. That’s it. No conversation, just hundreds of brief transactions. Day after day. What does ‘back to normal’ mean to him?
Every day, millions of people dedicate their time, skills and abilities to a broken narrative that says ‘normal life’ should be all about obtaining more stuff, more comfort, more fun, more being served, more ‘me time’ and more security. All that’s required is for just enough people to keep approving this way of ordering the world (by buying into the narrative) that it may continue. Regardless of the isolation of (for example) my delivery driver.
Well, there is a narrative which I believe makes for a good ‘normal’ and thank God, there are millions working within it. A normal where people can come to realise they are made in the image of their creator. A normal where people know just how highly valued they are. A normal where people are aware of others living amongst them as embodiments of a God of love, looking out for the needs of others before themselves and pointing to the day when the ‘normal’ will be a restored relationship between God and his people.
So what does that mean for those who follow Jesus? May I suggest you read today’s verse again? I think it says a lot about our role in all this. For each of us a different element of the verse will grab our thoughts. Perhaps comfort or a reminder or maybe a challenge or even something brand new.
One final question: Which ‘normal’ are you looking forward to and how will others know it?