Showing and telling
Eric Liddell is well known as the Scottish Olympic runner who, at the Paris Olympics in 1924, declined to run in the heats for his favoured 100m because they were held on a Sunday. He then went on to win Olympic Gold in the 400m, whilst breaking the Olympic and World records. His story was made famous in the 1981 film ‘Chariots of Fire’. He is celebrated for his achievements, although it is conveniently forgotten that he was heavily criticised at the time by many in the British press for ‘letting his country down’ by refusing to run in a race in which he seemed certain to secure gold.
Even less well known is that he was born of missionary parents in Tientsin in China and died in a Japanese internment camp at Weihsien a few months before the end of the second world war, in February 1945. Whilst ‘Chariots of fire’ portrays him as the World Class athlete he certainly was (he also played rugby for Scotland), the plot line doesn’t develop his later life in which he turned his back on further athletic success and renown and devoted his life to serve in China as a missionary teacher.
I find it fascinating how so many people admire Liddell’s principled stance about not running on a Sunday, yet who would not share either his principles nor his Christian faith. His life was (and is) attractive and commendable to many who admire his courage and winsomeness, without necessarily sharing his views. Accounts of Liddell’s life make clear that those who knew him were deeply impressed by the attractive integrity of his life and his clear devotion to Christ. I think the distinguishing feature of his life was that he clearly lived the principles he espoused. Whilst he was keen to encourage others to share his own faith in Christ and adopt the same principles by which he lived, he only did so as one who clearly lived consistently by them himself. Let me share a quote about him:
‘….those who knew Eric best understood that he could hold himself to the highest ideals he proclaimed while never looking down on those who did not share his beliefs. It was conviction, not fanaticism – the same unique blend of integrity and magnanimity that enabled Eric to congratulate his Olympic teammates who competed on Sunday while standing firm on his own conviction not to run.’
Notice the author’s distinction between fanaticism and conviction. The fanatic not only holds to certain key beliefs but will go to any length to force others to conform (Think Taliban or the wilder fringes of some Christian groups) whereas the Christ-honouring believer stands firmly by their Christian principles and faith, but is chiefly concerned, not to compel others, but to compel themselves and to ensure their own life conforms to that faith.
Far from bemoaning the reality that we live in a culture where the Christian faith is marginalised and ignored, we ought to ask ourselves why our lives are not more winsome. We are to both speak the message of the kingdom, and at the same time live more and more as Christ-like members of that Kingdom, under the reign of King Jesus. Looking back, Eric Liddell seems to have been a good example to us.
Have we learned to show as well as tell, to be more distinctively and consistently Christian in our daily lives and characters? At the same time have we taken the courage to tell the message of Jesus? We need to do both. I wonder if the temptation in the church today is to do all manner of things under the banner of ‘mission’, commendably determined to show the compassion of Christ, but by our silence fail to explain why we do it. And ‘showing’ is chiefly about the Christlike characters we are called to become, of which acts of compassion follow as a consequent part.
It is one of the striking features of Jesus ministry that those who saw and heard him were struck by his teaching authority (Matthew 7:29; Mark 1:27). That authority was, at least in part, the product of a life perfectly and beautifully lived, and that was utterly consistent with all he taught. Jesus did not speak like the run-of-the-mill teachers of the day who tried to impress by quoting what others had taught. Jesus spoke by saying ‘I say to you….’ and reinforcing what he taught in a life that shone with all the beauty of a life conformed to all he said. It was vital to Jesus to tell people the truth by proclaiming the kingdom of God, but only as the one who perfectly exemplified that truth, being the true king in his kingdom.
If we tell the truth without showing the truth, we risk becoming shouty fanatics whose actions contradict our message. If we try to show without telling then we risk leaving people puzzled over what the message of the gospel actually is, and we may be seen as no more than eccentric misfits. The Christian life is about showing and telling.
The quote comes from the book ‘Eric Liddell – Pure Gold’ by David McCasland p.165. This excellent book traces all of Liddell’s life including his early life before he was famous and his later life in China till his death.
The Chongos: Scones at the Manse and final Sunday
Sadoc and Vivi Chongo arrived in Scotland 7 years ago, coming to Dalry from Guatemala in August 2016. Their time among us has hugely enriched our fellowship, and Sadoc helped establish and lead outreach work among young people. We will miss them desperately when they leave us next month, as Sadoc takes up a full-time post with Holy Saviour Church in Southampton. They arrived as Vivi and Sadoc and leave us as Vivi, Sadoc, Olivia and ‘wee’ Sadoc.
To give opportunity to spend time with them, as a fellowship, before they leave, we plan to have a ‘Scones at the Manse’ event in the Manse Garden from 1pm on Saturday 19th August. Please come! This year’s crop of fruit from the Manse Garden has been turned into jam! Your task is to eat it.
Sunday 20th August will be the Chongos final Sunday with us, as they plan to move in the early part of the following week. We will be joined at morning worship by both Martin Haworth, former Scottish secretary of Latin Link who helped bring the Chongos here, and also Mike Fernandez the current Scottish Secretary of Latin Link.
Goodbyes are important, because they honour the relationships with which God has blessed us – so that weekend we will be saying goodbye.
Shared services at St Margarets 10th, 17th September
St Margarets celebrate the 150th anniversary of their Church building in September. They have invited us to join them for the two services marking this occasion on 10th September, when the Moderator of the General Assembly will lead worship, and on 17th September which is their anniversary date (after which there will be a light lunch). Please note the time is 10.30am.