[first published in the monthly Congregational “Notes”, October 2016.]
When Janet and I travelled in France earlier this year, we were struck by the absence of barriers and safety restrictions in many places. In Australia, there would surely have been fences, ropes, locked gates, etc. all designed to stop the foolish but frustrate the intrepid. Not so there! The clearest example of this was the Pic Saint-Loup climb. The Pic (Peak) is a steep granite rise of some 360 metres above its surrounds. It is an hour’s walk to the top on a path of about 2.8 km. The view is stunning—and so is the drop! The sign at the bottom simply says prudence aux bords des falaises au sommet or, “(take) care at the cliffs at the summit.” In case one forgets, there is a shorter sign near the end of the climb which says, “Be…continue reading
[first published in the monthly congregational “Notes”, September, 2016]
We continue this month to apply the concept of noblesse oblige (the idea, stamped into mankind at creation in the notion of family, that those who have position of privilege can be expected to use that privilege for the good of others) to the Christian life.
In the Old Testament, Israel, having received the privileges of grace as a nation was required to exhibit that grace to other nations, so that they would see the wonderful character of God (e.g. Deut 4:5-10). Israel failed to do this. They became proud, and presumed that the grace of God had completed its work with the Exodus! They were all right and that was that. There was nothing more except their vindication in world history! In their presumption they lost their outward focus, became inward looking and by their disobedience exchanged the…continue reading
[first published in the monthly congregational Notes, August 2016]
Noblesse oblige is a French phrase that came over directly into the English language in the 19th century, but the meaning it carries is far older than that. Literally it can be translated as “nobility obliges”, and the term denotes the social idea that those who have privilege or position arising from wealth or birth are obliged to use their status for the good of society as a whole and especially for the good of those less fortunate.
The idea of noblesse oblige is sometimes vigorously opposed, and not just by those who are selfish and don’t want to share. Surprisingly this opposition often comes from people who might benefit from the generosity that noblesse oblige inspires. Why? It is a philosophical issue. They argue that it implicitly sanctions the inequality out of which the ‘obligation’ flows. They fear that…continue reading