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British values

As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.” And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Matthew 9: 32-38

On many different occasions, Prime Minister David Cameron has emphasised British values, especially following the Trojan horse controversy in some Birmingham schools.  British values aren’t optional, he said, they’re vital and to be promoted in every school and to every child in the country.

But what are these British values? And are we all agreed on them?

In the second year of Jesus’ public ministry, around AD 30, Jesus appointed twelve disciples to go out in his name into all the towns and villages. What values were they going to promote? Are these the same as British values? And how would Jesus help them to help others?

These twelve men had already been with Jesus for a year or more. They had heard the Sermon on the Mount – Jesus’ keynote address - at the start of his public ministry. They had then seen that sermon lived out by Jesus. He cleansed lepers, healed from a distance the servant of a Roman centurion, delivered evil-oppressed men from their self-destructive natures, released a paralyzed man from both his paralysis and his sin, stanched a woman’s twelve years of continuous menstrual bleeding, restored to life a dead young girl alive and given sight to the blind.
‘Compassion is what makes a person feel pain when somebody else hurts.’ (Anon.)

Jesus didn’t know these needy people – they weren’t as it were, his buddies. He was showing, as it were, “Jesus values” – certainly not “British values”

I wonder what these soon-to-be-sent-out disciples really thought about this man Jesus. Who did they think he really was? Would they decide for “Jesus values” and reject “Jesus himself”?

Matthew, Jesus’ AD 60 biographer, reports that Jesus intensified their pre-sending-out induction course in two major ways.

Their first challenge came a few days before they were to be appointed. (See bold above) The challenge was a dumb man – not a man without vocal chords but a man who was mute because of internal intangible burdens. Jesus made a point of curing him completely – the dumb man then spoke clearly in the presence of all of them. All were amazed - this had never happened before in living memory.

Why did Jesus – at this particular stage – enable a person, dumb for mental, social and other intangible emotional reasons, to speak for the very first time? I wonder if each of them on-the-quiet went up to Jesus and asked for his help to enable them to speak when they were “out there”. Even today some folk endorse the values of Jesus without ever endorsing Jesus himself – they are dumb.

The second challenge for the disciples at this pre-appointment induction took the form of a quick tour, with them, to show the depth of his feelings for the people around him. I quote. “Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages teaching in their synagogues, telling all about the good news of a new realm, and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were harassed – pressurized within – and helpless – pushed down – like sheep without a shepherd to look after them.”
‘People will not care what you know until they know that you care.’ (Anon.)

David Cameron asks all of us to embrace unspecified British values. Jesus wanted to bring about change within his followers so that they would have the compassion towards others which was inside him.

They would no longer be dumb but would speak his words to others, words of wonderful good news (gospel of the kingdom=good news of the realm) of God – as well as heal all. British values? Not really – just Jesus and his values, his compassion, his kingdom, his realm.
Richard Syvret

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