In the couple of months since the same-sex marriage referendum many believers have found themselves shocked as they try to accommodate themselves to a new type of Ireland. We have found ourselves in a country where, for example, some presiding officers thought it appropriate to keep the Bible on the floor of their polling stations. But what is it exactly that shocks us? Is it simply the shock of the new? Or the shock of seeing the culture shift before our very eyes (former President Mary McAleese asked, “Can’t you feel the tectonic plates moving under our feet?”). Or maybe we’re shocked at people’s Biblical ignorance, although that isn’t a new phenomenon.
But I’m going to suggest something else to be shocked about and it’s not Biblical ignorance but Biblical irrelevance – the growing idea in the general public that the Bible has nothing to say to them. Of course they miss the fact that Western culture has been massively influenced by the Bible for centuries – but the point is that they are missing this fact. I was out at the airport the other day to pick someone up and watched the endless stream of people (on that occasion mostly Irish people) pouring out of Arrivals. It struck me as never before that, in this new era, the vast majority of these people find the Bible, my work and my Jesus to be irrelevant. That’s shocking.
But it’s also motivating. Now we know what the stakes are. Now we have a better idea what size the mountain is that we’re climbing. We are no longer floating along on a wave of sympathetic somewhat-Christian culture where we can let our forebears do the heavy lifting. But God is not surprised. He has left us a New Testament where the believers lived in a context increasingly similar to ours. Now it’s our turn!
Let’s be shocked about the right thing.