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Viewpoint - The Bishop of Norwich

by The Rt. Revd. Graham James, Bishop of Norwich

for Good Friday 2008



I was once told about an elderly lady who keeps a small box by her chair when she's watching telviewpoints cross logo jpegevision. The box contains balls of wool. Whenever a politician appears who says something insulting about his opponents, an entertainer indulges in unnecessary vulgarity or a film becomes too violent, she picks up a ball of wool and throws it at the set. It seems a rather harmless means of protest. If you're housebound and rely on the television for company it's entirely understandable. She must have a big stock of wool!
Human beings strike back when they're offended. We often shout when we're shouted at. When we're hit the urge to respond in kind runs very deep. And it starts early. I remember sometimes separating our children when they got themselves into a fight. It was always incredibly difficult to find out who was right or wrong in the first place. As the scrap went on both sides always ended up in tears. The way children behave is carried into adult life. It's even the way nations at war behave too.
It's a pity we're not all clever enough to use balls of wool to express our angerbishop of norwichWe've even invented new ways of blowing our top. No-one had ever heard of 'road rage' a few years ago. The idea that if you're slapped across one cheek you should turn your face and offer the other one hasn't exactly caught on. But that's what 'turn the other cheek' is about. Is it impossible?
On Good Friday our eyes look to Jerusalem. Two thousand years ago Jesus, who taught us to turn the other cheek, was crucified there. It looked like a defeat. Crucifixion is one of the most horrible and painful methods of execution human beings have ever invented. But God's way of dealing with rejection and opposition was not the way of fighting back. Jesus accepted the way of suffering and death. We know that people will suffer for those they love. Parents would often rather die themselves than see their children killed.
When I was a child the church I attended had a big plain cross hanging in front of the congregation. On it were some neon strip lights. It was hardly tasteful or artistic. But I grew up seeing light flooding from the cross. Long before I could ever understand Good Friday I knew instinctively that the cross was a symbol of God's love. Light blazed from that cross. It was God's burning love - not a defeat at all.
God doesn't seem tempted even to throw balls of wool at us when we misbehave. He simply gives his life for us. That's why we call the day of Christ's crucifixion Good Friday. Of course the story doesn't end there. There's Easter's new life to come. God's on our side. He just can't stop loving us.