Thought for the Month (March 2011)

Dear friends,

There is an ancient riddle which has been in my mind lately. The riddle goes: "How many ends has a piece of string". "Two ends" answers the younger child, ever observant, ever practical. "No" answers its smug elder, "A piece of string has only one end, because the other one is a beginning!"

There seems to be a message in this for our time; when faced with a problem in our society, we tend to concentrate only on its end product and forget that every 'end' has a 'beginning'. We start by searching for a way of helping the afflicted, just one end of the piece of string, and do not pause to ask ourselves why the problem arose in the first place.

For example, consider the newly formed Street Pastors organisation. The Street Pastors help and assist those drunk and vulnerable youngsters who flood into our streets after the pubs and clubs close on a Friday and Saturday night. Not only do the Street Pastors do a great deal of good, but they have probably done more to promote a positive view of the Christian Church in the community than any number of newspaper articles, sermons and evangelical campaigns. Here is the caring face of the Church in action, and we thank God for it. But this is just the 'end' of the piece of string, what about the 'beginning?' Where is our Christian outcry about the source of this problem? Have we nothing to say about the lax licensing laws and the binge-drinking fashion among the young which brings about this situation?

There are many problems in our society: sexual promiscuity, temporary cohabitation and the resultant family breakdown, drug abuse, greed, poverty and debt, and for all of these you will find faithful groups of Christians seeking to alleviate the suffering caused, by helping victims cope with the 'end' of the string. I thank God for their patient Christian service. But where is the Christian witness against the causes of these problems? Where is the Christian action against the beginning of the string? Pro-chastity, pro-sobriety, and support for a healthy, honest and economical life-style. True, modern problems are complex and the Christian witness may not be as clear as in the past, but I do not think that this should prevent us speaking out as individuals or in groups, and making some attack on the root-causes of present-day social evils. Every string, no matter how long, has a beginning as well as an end.

Bob Webb

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Tunbridge Wells United Reformed Church