Consider Eli (in the book of Samuel chapter 3); he had given the best years of his life to being The Prophet in The Temple and to educating the boy Samuel as his successor. Yet, when God called Samuel (Samuel being the only witness to this conversation) He apparently told the youth that his master, mentor, teacher, and respected elder, Eli, was to be punished. Why? Because he had ignored the wrong-doing of his sons.
So, here was Eli, safe and secure in the Temple, interpreting God’s messages to the people of Israel, effectively in isolation from the real world. God, according to Samuel, was angry with him for ignoring what was going on outside.
Presumably, Eli’s sons were able to do a bit of strutting about; Eli, after all was the effective spiritual ruler of Israel. Think about the leaders of Iran, unelected Mullahs, able to speak without contradiction about what God wants for the people of Iran. Don’t tell me that their sons don’t do a bit of trading on the Old Man’s position in society! I expect that they get exactly what they want from all whom they meet, whether willingly or unwillingly. They are the nearest parallels we have today to the sons of Eli.
To his credit, Eli was not surprised when he heard God’s message via his young protégé. He accepted the verdict. He held his hands up. Guilty as charged.
So what is the message for us? What is it that we are ignoring that, when charged, we will confess to? It is easy to think back through the history of the church to find examples, more difficult to think of our own sins of omission.
Here are a few suggestions:
We, the church, have stood by while our country has created poverty and unseemly wealth. A company director gets a bonus of £100m; if the minimum wage had increased in step with boardroom pay it would now be two thirds higher than it is – what a difference that would make to the poor!
We, the church, have maintained that Christians have the right to vote entirely out of self-interest in the matter of taxation, knowing that the poorest suffer the most and the richest get the breaks.
We, the church, have supported property ownership laws that allow 60 thousand homes to remain empty for two years whilst double that number of children was homeless this Christmas.
We, the church, are only just emerging from a time when we condemned homosexuality and connived with the subjugation of women. We are happy to agree that God no longer requires two doves to be sacrificed when a boy is born, but we cling, like drowning sailors to wreckage, to verses that condemn gay sex.
We, the church, have continued to invest our wealth in oil, gas, and tobacco shares when we all know that these industries are destroying lives now and poisoning the future.
We need a Samuel!