If you do that again…
How many times, I wonder, have we heard those words as we push our trolleys around the supermarket, or said them ourselves to our children? Corporal punishment, especially of children, is for most of us a dark memory. Such punishments rarely have the desired effect, and can even make the situation worse. And a child will be well aware that the threat implied in ‘if you do that again’ is meaningless. They usually know that they should behave for a little while, and then Mum or Dad will have forgotten...until the next time!
That is, of course, the essence of parental forgiveness. We know, and our children know, that the love we share does not and will not change; that at the end of the day we will love each other just as much as ever. Just as God always loves us, and will always forgive us if we do wrong. He might make us suffer a little beforehand, but forgiveness will always follow if we are truly sorry.
The threat of punishment can also be seen in the way international relations are sometimes handled. Sabres may be rattled, troops be put on alert and warships put to sea, but most of the time we are (fairly) confident that common sense will prevail and one side will blink, allowing the world to breathe again. Most recently the spectre of nuclear war loomed when North Korea and the USA traded ever more posturing, bombastic and threatening insults…then out of the blue the countries’ leaders met, talked and became friends (well, sort of).
This year sees the 80th anniversary of the start of the Second World War, and back in July we commemorated the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Cagny, Pirbright’s twin village in France. In the 1930s many countries were far from happy about developments in Nazi Germany. Some might even have said among themselves, ‘if you do that again…’. But Hitler did ‘do it again’, and many thousands of lives were lost over the next six years as a result. We may at times have wondered where God was during those awful years, but in the end, even against sometimes overwhelming odds, the war was won. Right triumphed over evil.
Every November we gather to remember conflicts and wars, and to remember those brave souls who paid the ultimate price for standing up to tyranny. Why not join us at St Michael’s at 10.50 on Sunday November 10th to remember and to pray for a lasting peace?
Revd Gary Williamson