“What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth. They share it.” C.S. Lewis “The Four Loves” (1960)
I had forgotten that C.S. Lewis was born in Belfast, when suddenly on our bus trip of the city, there was the stately lion, Aslan no less, looking benevolently down upon us. We were the group of global church leaders attending the Presbyterian Church of Ireland annual Assembly. We had wined and dined well on Irish hospitality, and the conversations had flowed easily in a continual spirit of conviviality. We were made to feel welcome, we were indeed welcome at the heart of decision making and reporting in their denomination. When the Moderator Revd. Dr, Charles McMullen announced his theme for the year, “Making Relationships – Compelled by the Love of Christ”, it all made sense. Of course, we must befriend and walk with people, otherwise they are not going to hear and receive the Gospel. And to be effective witnesses for our Lord, we need to be in relationship with each other, as the one body of Christ.
“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbour; act as if you do, and you will presently come to love him.” C. S. Lewis “Mere Christianity” (1952)
Going to each others’ Assemblies is like all our church visits and official engagements rolled in to one, for I am always inspired and excited to hear stories of social action, children and young people’s events, reports of global partnerships, and the harrowing yet inspirational stories of Christians living daily in danger, facing persecution for their faith, and struggling with poverty and injustice. There were many such stories at the PCI Assembly. How we need each other to proclaim the Kingdom of God and fight against the forces of evil tearing apart people’s lives, hurting the world God loves so much.
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” C. S, Lewis “The Problem of Pain” (1940)
How we need each other! The moderator challenging us to make relationships! Then how sad and disappointing it was that the Assembly voted to break formal ties with the Church of Scotland and ourselves over the issue of same-sex marriage. Here is not the place to re-run the arguments, and there was pain for all in the Assembly whatever the outcome of the resolutions. In trust of the Holy Spirit, we believe the door to friendship with our sisters and brothers in Ireland may have been closed, but it remains unlocked. Remember the children did return through the wardrobe and there were great adventures to be had again. All our love and care for our Irish friends as they tackle great challenges in politics, society and church. We can still be with them in Spirit.