On Thursday I was involved in two inspections. At Westfield House we had the British Accreditation Council come and visit. There were observations, interviews, and going through file upon file. Then in the evening at T S Fox, the Sea Cadet Unit in Mildenhall, we had our biennial Royal Navy Pa-rade. The Parade is the culmination of two ‘prior inspections’ (involving paperwork and viewing the boats, drill equipment, etc) and is conducted before the Area Officer and is pretty nerve wracking but this year for the first time in the Unit’s history, the Captain of the Corps, was paying a visit as well. I had a part to play in both.
At the Sea Cadets I was to conduct the Prayers at Col-ours which involves a brief devotion. It is all very formal. I had prepared a few ideas about what to say but as I went to write I heard the news from the previous day of the tragic killing of the soldier in Woolwich. A few minutes later I received two emails from the Sea Cadet Corps regarding to the wearing of uniforms in public and issues relating to cadet safety. Like anyone who heard this news I was stunned and saddened. ‘Now what do I say?’ I thought.
I talked about inspections – formal ones and others – all those times when we look at someone and come to a judgement about them. What do we think when we see a hoodie, a turban, a hijab, a uniform? Appearances are not unimportant but if they tell us the ‘full story’ then we’re looking with preconceived ideas, maybe prejudice. Inspections and judgements – good ones – wise ones – look for the full story behind the appearance. For stories we need words of course – maybe reports – maybe dialogue – but without the words we don’t actually know what we’re seeing.
Jesus said, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24 ESV). When he said that people thought he was mad or a law breaker or possessed! Not good judgements at all. And considering that Jesus was executed perhaps they were right? Christians say that the cross actually tells us a different story – of God’s love for everyone; his care; his forgiveness; and new starts each day. I talked about how our judgements really for guiding our behaviour. I did pray for Drummer Rigby’s family and friends and all who are fearful and traumatised.
Many of you face inspections pretty constantly. We also face those ‘snap inspections’ when people see us and comment on something about us. We live in a world of judgements. And yet I suspect we’ll only accept the judgement / inspection when we believe those who have done it have not just looked at the surface or according to their own agenda but have actually understood who we are and what we do. When we believe we’ve been truly ‘seen and heard’, then I think we’ll even take judgements we don’t like.
The world often puts ‘God in the dock’ and judges him for the mess he’s made. If he exists (!), it’s all his fault. That’s the way of the world. Humanity always thinks it can do a better job! Just as we like having a ‘fair go’ when inspected or judged, I do hope that people will one day do the same with God – look and listen to the story of Jesus and the cross. Then they will hear a judgement they don’t like – yes, we’re all sinners – and a message that is actually undeserved and incredible – God the Father says ‘I love you; God the Son says ‘I love you’; and God the Holy Spirit says ‘I love you’. Life is working out what that relationship actually means. — GS