This reflection on the political events of the past week in Australia and their application to personal reflection was published today in our local paper.
The best commentary I read regarding the changeover of the Australian Prime Ministership was attributed to a regional fire brigade: “A reminder that Australia getting a new prime minister is an ideal time to check the battery in your smoke alarm”.
If you don’t laugh, you might cry.
The challenge in situations such as this is to walk a line between cynicism and despair. On a juvenile level it has similar entertainment value to a Punch and Judy show: each party taking turns dispensing and receiving their blows.
Having relentlessly criticised their opponents for changing leaders (and then changing back), to then do exactly the same thing takes, as the old saying goes, more front than Myers.
Mature reflection recognises the temptation in such a situation to externalise the perceived fault, firstly as something that only the other side of politics does. But then, when both sides do it, it becomes something that politicians do, as if they are a moral class apart from everybody else.
For such a judgment to stand though we non-politicians would have to have always kept our word; never made a decision we’ve tried to back away from; and have been morally and ethically sound in everything we’ve done.
The disappointment I feel when I view the sorts of situations that unfolded in Canberra last week is one that identifies all the failings I perceive in our elected representatives as being all too present in myself.
There is a powerful story that is included in John’s Gospel where a woman caught in sexual sin (in the actual act, the accusers salaciously add) is dragged to Jesus for judgment. Apparently they were armed and ready to carry out the penalty.
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” With these famous words he disarms the crowd, who drop their rocks and wander away. He doesn’t ignore the woman, his final words of exhortation are that she go, and sin no more.
A careful look at this story helps us understand an important point about our tendency to outrage over injustice.
Firstly, that we should know the difference between right and wrong and advocate strongly for right to prevail.
Secondly, that if our outrage over the wrong of others never causes us to ask ourselves where we are falling short and how we need forgiveness then we’re doing outrage wrong.
If all the wrongs of others do is reinforce a sense of self-righteousness and superiority and contempt for the failings of others then you’re cultivating a very shallow sense of self.
Our parliamentary representatives will face account for their actions at the polls. Some will experience judgment then, few will finish their careers on their own terms.
But what about us? Do we take stock at times such as this to seek forgiveness for our failings from God, from those we love, from those we’ve hurt intentionally or accidentally?
In a world where we’re surrounded by the failings of others, Jesus asks each of us to temper and humanise our outrage by knowing our frailty and ourselves.