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Saturday, 21 February 2015

A Wailing Wall Incident.

As a lone backpacker, one country which has always intrigued me is Israel. Home of the Bible, birthplace of the Church, a paradise for students of both ancient and recent history, a giant archaeological garden, and also the crossroads for three monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam, each claiming to have their roots in Abraham's faith, to whom God had originally given this land. So I considered as I stood leaning on the barrier separating the outer area of open ground from the inner courtyard, where orthodox Jews gathered to pray at the Western Wall, sometimes known as the Wailing Wall, where Jews have ever since wept over the loss of their Temple when it was razed to the ground by the Roman forces in AD 70.

As I leaned at the barrier, soaking in the excitement of Israeli life, a group of young white men arrived at this Jewish holy site, chanting England, England, land of hope and glory! - before eventually dispersing. Although I did not know how the Jews must have felt as a result of such an insulting incident, I myself felt very perturbed. Who on Earth were they to chant the glory of their home country while staying as guests in a foreign land? And why were they there in the first place? They did not come across as archaeological or history students, and certainly not as on a pilgrimage tour, as had always been the case with the vast majority of Christians visiting the Holy Land. Rather, they came across as if a horde of boozed up football fans who are traditionally regarded as working class, and holding far-right political views.

Not that football had ever been the sport of Israel. They do have a national team, but had never qualified for the World Cup or European tournaments, as far as I'm aware. If they did, they had never made it into the knockout stages. So seeing what looks to be English football fans in Israel was more odd than watching a fish thrive out of water. When I arrived back home, I shared this incident with some of my church friends in the Singles group. One of them, a devoted English patriot, insisted that they did not do anything amiss. I then asked him,
Have you ever seen a group of Jews chanting Israel, Israel, in Trafalgar Square? (A popular London venue for demonstrations and protest groups.) There was no answer.

Whether this is the correct thing to do or not, I have always stereotyped chanting football fans as white working class with a high sense of patriotism. Maybe the image of a well educated university graduate in a sharp suit and spending the day at an office number-crunching or answering the 'phone does not fit the stereotype. Far too reserved, together with the long working hours both taking their toll on his social life.

So jump forward from 1993 (when that incident took place) to the present day when, fresh out of hospital after open heart surgery, an article accompanied by a video covered an incident on the Paris subway when a group of Chelsea fans blocked a black Parisian from boarding a train by repeatedly pushing him out of the carriage doors. Then this group began to chant,
We are racist, we are racist, and that's how we like it, that's how we like it.
What they didn't realise at that moment was the pushing and chanting was caught on camera, and the footage sent off to The Guardian national newspaper, then going viral right across the Media. When rumbled, the small group of fans began to protest, insisting that the chant was directed at the Chelsea team manager, John Terry. One fan was singled out in that group. Far from being working class, his parents owned an exclusive home in Surrey, he attended a £33,000-a-year public school, graduated in business studies at Regent's University in London, and at present works at Business & Commercial Club in the City. With such a profile, I find it astonishing that such a character can engage in such racist activity!

I have seen such stories like this before, how middle class graduates can blend in among the working class to support a football team and partake in racism, or declare their national superiority if the game is international. All this leaves me rather frazzled. Here is a guy whose I.Q. is several grades above mine, yet fail to see that as humans, regardless of race, ethnic origin, social class, or nationality; we are all under the shadow of death, and unless redeemed by Jesus Christ, judgement will follow. However, this does not seem to shed any light on who made up that arrogant crowd in Jerusalem. Above I wrote that they were as if football fans. But with no game in sight, especially in the midst of Summer, and seemingly unknown, all I can conclude is that they were a group of mere tourists, out on a booze binge as if on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza.

Am I deluded? Am I stuck in the mud for stereotyping? How is it that I instinctively rule them out as being university undergrads? After all, archaeology, the Hebrew language, or Biblical history are big stuff here in Israel. Or, heaven forbid, a group of pilgrims? Maybe a group of volunteers on a project. No matter which way to turn, I just couldn't link these people as among the academically elite. But having just come out of hospital, regarding that group of Englishmen in Jerusalem or at the Paris subway some 22 years later, I couldn't help but ponder on how these patriots would have felt about having an open heart procedure carried out by a team of Islamic consultants from the Middle East, then given general care by a team of nurses, the majority being Afro-Caribbean, and then as an icing on the cake, having someone from the Mediterranean serve up the meals. Then leaving me to ponder on how many among the remaining few white staff members are actually home-born English, as opposed to being Polish or Hungarian.

As mentioned in my last blog, all these people treated me very well indeed, as a result of showing them respect and thankfulness as a patient at their hospital. Walking in the Holy Spirit is on par with walking in love, as the Bible apparently does not make these two exclusive. Love is a force not only much stronger than racism or national superiority, but both the giver and recipient benefit, pouring soothing oil on otherwise clunking cogs of a rusting engine. As previously mentioned, walking in the Holy Spirit/walking in love has made every staff member at direct contact with me at the hospital feel worthy of their call, have brightened up their day. And unlike most other patients, I was offered the option of another night at the ward, an option I turned down in favour of returning home.

But there remains an issue which bothers me. That is, any readers of my last blog coming to the conclusion that since I did not share the Gospel of Christ to any of them, they remained lost in their sins, and therefore, walking in the Holy Spirit while remaining incapacitated did not amount to anything of worth, even if my voice itself was very weak, not much higher than a whisper. I suppose on the face of it, these readers have a point. Any one of these staff members could have died the day after I was discharged. But I also believe that showing goodness and preaching the Gospel does not guarantee conversion. This was the case of Jesus Christ himself. He performed miracles, healed the sick, drove out demons, even raising the dead, as well as miraculous feeding five thousand men. Great crowds were drawn to him due to such love he had shown to them. This was why the Lord wanted to sift their hearts, and come out with such startling statements designed to test those who genuinely wanted to follow him from those who just wanted the benefits. So on one occasion he turned to the crowds and declared:

If anyone comes to me and hates not his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple...(and) anyone who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:26,33.

It has been considered that Luke 14:33 is the most unpopular verse in the entire Bible. In my younger days I mistook it to mean that to impoverish myself to the state of homelessness was the way to eternal life - a works-based salvation which was a practically impossible burden for a potential believer to bear. Rather, I believe here that Jesus was testing the heart among the crowd that gathered around him. The truth was, despite his love and wonderful goodness delivered to them, along with the secrets of the Kingdom of God, he was rejected by almost the entire nation of Israel. And towards the later chapters of John's Gospel, Jesus warned his disciples that since the world had rejected his teachings, it will reject their's too, and this includes ours. However, if the Holy Spirit had prompted me to say something, I would have spoken up.

I always remember that moment I was walking alone through Leicester Square in London, when I came across a Christian orator stuck for words when one in the crowd asked him to prove that Jesus was more worthy of a following than Muhammad. Immediately I shouted out,

This very uncharacteristic response can only be from the Holy Spirit within, for only he can prompt a person to say that Jesus is risen from the dead. That is what I love to see spread across this nation.

I don't dislike this nation, as some may think. Rather, I believe that England in particular desperately needs to know the love of God through faith in Christ. It's the only hope this nation has - faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour. Nationalism through football support is not the solution, neither is any right wing political fix. And certainly not racialism either. But perhaps a questioning of the status quo of Darwinism would be a good start, as Evolution robs the Gospel of all its power, relegating it to fiction. Then the realisation that we were created by God to eternally enjoy his love, but have fallen into sin, and national pride and superiority is a direct result of sin, and in need to be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus as Saviour, is the only way forward.

Imagine the different reaction these guys would have taken in both Jerusalem and Paris alike had they known the Lord for themselves.


  1. Thanks for a truly great post. I say 'amen' to the following: Then the realisation that we were created by God to eternally enjoy his love, but have fallen into sin, and national pride and superiority is a direct result of sin, and in need to be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus as Saviour, is the only way forward'. People have been hurt in the past and they have given up so we are in deserate need of a revival. The Lord is good and his love is enduring. Be blessed.

  2. Dear Frank,
    Praise God that we are all one in Him, regardless of nationality, sex, class, or any other category man imposes. His perfect love casts out man's fear, which is often manifest as hate. I believe that during your illness you were a great testimony to the power of God's saving love and grace, because His love was reflected in your attitude, words and actions, whether or not you had the opportunity to directly share the Gospel. Thanks for the great post, welcome back, and prayers for your continued recovery.
    God bless,

  3. My father was from England. He is now in Glory...I have never considered Brit's to be very an outsider looking in, I see they worship football, royalty and carousing. more than anything else.. However, reading what you have written I can see there are exceptions, and I am so thankful for that.. There have been others fine if not remote examples'. Those who come to mind are John Wesley, William Booth, and the great Smiths Wigglesworth.. Now that Muslims have infiltrated England the true Brit seems to be dwindling away.. Like the writer of proverbs says, it all seems useless.. However, when Jesus lights up your life and when you shine for him, He becomes seen by all in the darkness of this world.. Every one of us count, so lets just keep on being little glow worms who bother the darkness and emanate love in all we do and say.

  4. Great post. Frank.

    Until they see the Holy spirit in us, people have no reason to want him in their lives, and as you mentioned, according to Luke 14, they cannot be saved until they make that commitment to him. You were undoubtedly a more effective witness than others would have been just because you let them see Christ in you.

  5. One plants, one waters but it is God who adds the increase. The carnal mind will always try to reason against the mind of Christ, but we must always try to act on the Holy Spirit's instruction, for we are a new creation in Christ Jesus.