Thought for the Day - Rev Dr Giles Fraser - 23/08/2012

What is a Caucus-race?' asked Alice during her adventure in
Wonderland. The Dodo explained. First you mark out a racecourse,though the shape of it doesn't really matter. They you shout out: one, two three, go, and you run around in any direction you like for about half an hour and then the race ends. But when asked the question "who has actually won?" the Dodo looked puzzled and pressed his finger to his temple. Then the answer came to him: "everybody has won, and all must have prizes."

Like a great many households, the Fraser family, and in particular my daughter who is also called Alice, are waiting anxiously for GCSE results that come out today. Will she pass or will she fail? In a few hours’ time, we will know the judgment of the examiners.

In a much-discussed book that bears the title "All must have prizes" the journalist Melanie Phillips has powerfully argued that the education system in this country was profoundly undermined by the idea that there ought to be no such thing as winners and losers. For if everyone is a winner and all must have prizes, then we profoundly undermine any sense of success or achievement. A culture that rates anything and everything as success is a culture that has given up on the very idea of success itself. It is a system that makes as little sense as the Caucus race.

But whilst I see all this, the funny thing is that, as a Dad, I won't love my daughter any different if she gets the grades she wants or if she doesn't. Whatever the result, my love for her will remain the same. Love is not dependent upon success.

And the same is true of Christianity. The prodigal son may have blown his inheritance on wine, women and song, and his brother may have worked tirelessly on his father's farm, but both receive the same share of the father's love. In another parable, some workers toil all day in the sun, and others do only half a day's work, but all get the same pay. It seems totally unfair. Yet from the perspective of a
loving father - which is, of course, the most familiar Christian metaphor for God - all are offered prizes. And that's because love is not contingent. It doesn't depend upon the behaviour of the person being loved. Love is just there. It falls from the sky like rain, upon the just and the unjust.

So does that mean that we can do exactly as we like? Is everything permitted in a world without judgment? Well, not quite. For although divine love is indeed offered to all, love has also to be received. And to allow ourselves to be looked and fully seen by a person that genuinely loves us is one of the most searching forms of judgment that there can ever really be. This is far more existentially penetrating. Not the judgment of distant examiners, divine or otherwise, but the judgment of facing a truth about ourselves that can only be recognized and spoken by those who love us most, come what may.

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