Yesterday (Thursday), our children finished at their primary school before our forthcoming move from Essex to Surrey. The other week, the mother of one of our daughter’s friends texted us to ask whether we would be free to share a picnic with her today. We were, so we agreed.
At 11 this morning, we made our way over to the park where we had agreed to meet. Only it wasn’t just this one family. It was a whole collection of families. And more turned up over the next couple of hours. We were deeply touched by their affection for us, and their gratitude for the part we had played in the community.
It reminded me of a story from a previous sabbatical, when Debbie and I worshipped at a Church Of Another Denomination. The pastor was a friend and a good preacher, but one Sunday morning a lay elder preached. He pranced around at the front like an evangelical superstar, and pronounced in his sermon that when non-Christians ask you how you are, they never mean it. Only your Christian friends truly care about you.
“Idiot,” we both thought. We have both had good reason to be grateful for our non-Christian friends. Sometimes they have been far better friends than some of our Christian acquaintances.
Whatever I believe about the need for everyone to follow Christ (and I do believe that), we need a theology to cope with the goodness of non-Christians.