Commitment and Respect

St Michael’s Vicarage
Alnwick

Dear People of Alnwick,

I’ve always been interested in words – and when I talk with couples who are preparing for marriage we usually have a discussion about the word ‘commitment’. In modern day life, people much prefer to opt in or out of things according to how they feel on any particular day. Long term pledges are often seen as restrictive and less morally binding than was once the case. Commitment may continue to have the same dictionary definition – but, in almost every sphere of life, it doesn’t seem to carry the weight that it once did.

Just recently, following the tragic tower block fire in Kensington, I listened, until I could stand it no longer, to a disgraceful television interview with the Environment Secretary on early morning television during which the interviewer rudely harangued and pilloried the Minister and constantly refused to allow him to respond to the invitation he had been given to appear on the programme. It was at that point that I realised there was yet another word in our language which seems to be daily losing the definition it once had. That word is ‘respect’.

Of course, the interviewer, like all other right-thinking folk was angry, appalled and upset at the tragedy which had occurred – but his rudeness and seeming inability to allow any reasoned response or level-headed discussion demonstrated a complete lack of respect for a fellow human being.

And, of course, the shocking terrorist activities which have taken place recently in London and Manchester are an extreme example of a complete lack of respect for the sanctity of human life.

Whatever faith is followed, a basic tenet of existence has to be one of respect for the world, its environment and its people. The ‘commitment’ to which terrorists and suicide bombers pledge themselves is tragic and the lack of ‘respect’ which such people have for peaceful co-existence both devalue words which once had great influence on the life of our society.

Jesus said that he had come so that we might have life and have it in abundance (John 10:10). Perhaps a re-examination of what we understand by ‘commitment’ and ‘respect’ might help us to find that abundance once again.

In the meantime, people of faith and goodwill everywhere must surely commit themselves afresh to do whatever they can, no matter how seemingly insignificant, to respect all life in order to experience the abundance which can be freely ours.

With every blessing,

Paul.

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