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the great exchange (or the bad bargain)

Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged (1) the glory of the not-corruptible God for (2) another God with the likeness and appearance of corruptible mankind....... Therefore God gave them up ....... to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves.......      Paul’s letter to Roman folk [written c.AD 57] 1: 22-24


Is there “impurity” in Jersey folk? Do folk in Jersey do anything that might be described as “the degrading of their bodies among themselves”?


What do you think? The JEP reports paedophilia being downloaded – but what about pornography, soft and hard? And what about the actions that follow? What about covert adultery and one-night stands? And what do you think Jersey’s teenagers are up to? And what follows the Friday night binge drinking and drug use? Why is so much advertising overtly sex-based?


The words in bold above may well identify a cause behind the impurity and behind the mutual degrading of the bodies of folk in Jersey. The cause in AD 57 Rome was that God (the God of the Lord Jesus Christ whom Paul served with all his heart and all his life after being stopped by him when on the road to Damascus) “gave them up”.


God had given them up to this! Shocking! Surely God is love? Why had God given them up in AD57?


The reason was that they had made a bad bargain. What they thought was a “great” – a Great Exchange was nothing of the kind.


Take a look at what was exchanged. The exchange took place in the thinking of humanity. Folk who thought in terms of (1) above began to think in terms of (2) above. This was the bad bargain that made God decide to give up on those who entered into it.


On one side of the exchange entered into by the “wise” was “the glory of the not-corruptible God i.e. the glory and praiseworthiness of the God of marvellous creation – an imperishable and incorruptible glory. 


On the other side of the bad bargain entered into (according to Paul) by those who thus became fools (although claiming to be wiser than wise) was “another God with the likeness and appearance of corruptible mankind.


The great exchange was not merely to take on board a god who was like humanity, corruptible humanity, and to believe in such a god. It was also to believe in that god as being the origin of wonderful life on earth and that man was in control and command of everything around them.


And today – as opposed to AD 57 – we see more clearly than ever the identity of this alternative god. For many there is now, in AD 2010 Jersey, no god ... at all ... except ... human beings... And what then of the fact that all human beings conjure up (spin) likenesses and images that are designed to fool others. Those likenesses and images are still god.


Better to take that god on board than to stay with the glory – the imperishable, incorruptible glory – of God.


Was this – is this – a bad bargain?


Not entirely. The big advantage of the bargain is that, if I make this exchange, I am no longer accountable to this non-corruptible God –as I otherwise would be. Now that is very attractive and really worth having.


In fact it is that particular attractiveness – that particular reason for the great exchange – that has the seeds of the “impurity”, the “degrading of their bodies among themselves” that is endemic here today.


When Paul wrote the facts of Jesus Christ, his death on a cross in the place of others and his resurrection, were only beginning to become known in the Middle East and Europe. “Impurity” was rife in AD 57 Rome.


As post-Christian Europe (and Jersey) has re-entered this great exchange we all re-enter that sort of society – and suffer the pain of the bad bargain that it really is.


But, most important of all, the God of love welcomes folk who, seeing the consequences, wish to reverse their great exchange.

‘We should give God the same place in our hearts that he holds in the universe.’ (Anon.)
 ‘A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.’ (C S Lewis, novelist, academic, broadcaster, 1898-1963)
Richard Syvret

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