Thursday, 29 November 2018

An antidote to chaos

December 2018

Jordan Peterson (the Canadian clinical psychologist whose book ’12 Rules for Life – an antidote to chaos’ has now sold over 2 million copies) has said that you “can’t break the rules … if you twist the fabric of reality it will snap back on you”.  So, for example, you may get out of a tricky situation by lying but you are destroying your own integrity and mental well-being, and other people’s trust in you too.

Based on his clinical work Peterson says that he has “never known anyone get away with anything”.  He knows how people break ‘the rules’, he sees the chaos and pain in their lives and he connects the two.  It’s a striking challenge to the usual view that I can live as I please.  “I did it my way” is our proud boast.  Peterson is right in this; our actions have consequences. 

But, I humbly submit, Peterson is still missing two things.

What Jordan Peterson sees as the ‘fabric of reality’ in this world is attributed by the Bible to the unchanging character of the God who made our universe.  The reality at the heart of everything is a person, not disembodied rules.  Hostility to his rules is a personal affront to the God who lovingly, deliberately and carefully knitted us.  And so the consequences of breaking the rules are far worse than Peterson has observed in his consulting room; they include being permanently estranged from the One we were made for, disconnected at the deepest level of our being.

But, secondly, a moral universe without a God leaves out all the good news – that the God who created the rules has also stepped in to rescue us.  God’s rules  show us what we should be like, but his answer to our failure is not more ‘rules for life’ but Jesus – living by the rules, dying for our rule-breaking and bearing in himself the full horror of the ‘snap-back’.  Jesus offers, as a free gift, solidarity with him so that our rule-breaking and chaotic life can become his responsibility, and his rule-keeping and ordered life can become his gift to us, given in love.

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given!  So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.

Happy Christmas!

Graham Burrows

Friday, 2 November 2018

Finger-Lickin’ Good News

November 2018

A white moustache and goatee, thick-framed glasses and a string tie, he is now world-famous for his restaurants.  But not everything went well for the young Harland Sanders.  When he was only 5, his father died.  Later he argued with his step-father and left home.  He worked on a farm, then briefly joined the army.  He was fired from several jobs for fighting and was well known for his constant swearing.  By the age of 40 he had a petrol station and was trying to provide for his family through the Great Depression.  Setting up the old family dining table and chairs in a corner of the petrol station he started selling food.  One of his best meals was fried chicken and Harland developed a novel pressure-fryer and his still-secret blend of 11 herbs and spices.  Eventually ‘Colonel’ Sanders began to sell franchises – the first ‘Kentucky Fried Chicken’ opened in Utah in 1952.  There are now 22,000 world-wide.

Even after he sold the business Sanders continued to be the instantly-recognisable face in the KFC advertisements, but as he grew older he knew something was wrong.  He later wrote, “If God created the world – and I know He done that – and I am part of His creation, then I should have a close relationship with Him.  I didn’t and it bothered me … all the success I’d had with my franchising business … still left me with a hollow feelin’ … I was a good citizen and all that.  But all this while I knew I wasn’t right with God.”

He was persuaded to go a church meeting where it dawned on him that this was exactly the mission of Jesus – to take on himself the weight of our guilt and so to put us right with the God who made us.  Sanders began to put his trust in Jesus rather than in his own effort to be good enough.

It “just seemed like a great burden was lifted off my shoulders.  I’d never felt anything like that before, and here I was seventy-nine years old.”

Colonel Sanders continued, “I pray to God Almighty my story will encourage you also to commit your life to Jesus.  If you will, no matter what hard times you may go through – if you keep turning to Him, acknowledging Him, and honouring Him in all you do – He’ll help you through.”


Graham Burrows