Gavin Norris

28.3.2017 | Congregational Life, Discipleship, Vision for Society

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Vision for Society Statement seeks to continue to place peacebuilding firmly at the heart of Christian discipleship and the Church itself. In the third in a series of five blogs, Gavin Norris reflects on its third paragraph. Writing in today’s blog, he says that “it takes real courage to identify and confess our failures.”

I confess that I sometimes have a problem with self-esteem, and I know I am not alone in that. I think it explains why I can get nervous in social situations. At the root of the problem, perhaps, is a sense of identity that is tied to what others think, rather than what Jesus has done for me - and this has personal, relational and spiritual consequences.

Confession is hard, isn’t it?  It requires thorough self-examination and forces us to confront our flaws.  But it is an essential part of the Christian life.  Confession helps us to focus on Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins and causes us to cry out for grace.  It should move us to genuine repentance and transformation – changing the way we live.

Public confession is important too.  In divided societies and communities, it takes real courage to identify and confess our failures.  But in making ourselves vulnerable before others and showing our regret we unlock new possibilities for building better relationships.

That is the rationale behind the third paragraph of our Vision for Society statement, which says:

WE CONFESS our failure
to live as Biblically faithful Christian peacemakers
and to promote the counter culture of Jesus
in a society where cultures clash.

As a follower of Jesus, His example demonstrates that peace is made, not by staying silent, or avoiding controversy at all costs, but by actions that may cause me difficulty and pain.  Yet there are times when I have wrongly stayed silent, choosing not to ‘rock the boat’.

Scripture shows us that God in his grace works through the lives and gifts of Christians and non-Christians.  Yet there are times when I have failed to recognise the immense contribution of my neighbours to the good of society.

The Gospel gives me insight to humbly and respectfully challenge society’s prevailing culture, yet I know that from time-to-time I have spoken harshly about the things that others value.

Jesus saved us by taking the blame for what we have done; sacrificing Himself and putting our needs before his own.  Yet I know that from time-to-time I have failed to serve and encourage others.

So in a society where cultures clash, I pray for courage to act when peace demands it; for humility to work for the common good with those who do not share my beliefs; for wisdom and grace in questioning other people’s views; and for continuing transformation of my heart, mind and soul, so that Jesus’ example shapes my relationships with others as it should.

And what about my problem with self-esteem?  Earlier in the statement we recognise that we are saved by grace, not by our own efforts.  True Christian identity is received, not achieved.  That’s another countercultural message – one that I’m still learning to embrace.

Gavin Norris attends First Carrickfergus Presbyterian Church and is the denomination’s public affairs officer.

The Statement was welcomed and adopted by the General Assembly in June 2016. Its five paragraphs are a declaration of belief, confession, affirmation and aspiration for our members across Ireland as disciples of Jesus Christ and as peacebuilders.

You can read all the blogs in this series here. For free resources, including short promotional films, a specially written hymn - based on the words of the statement - downloadable poster and prayer card visit the resources section here.

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