How can we “build back better” relationships?

“Can I hug my granny on Christmas day?” was the frustrated question a journalist asked the Prime Minister at a press conference this week. Many of us would like an answer too. Social distancing has removed so much of the joy of relationships we took for granted and we all look forward to the day when we can get back to more normal connection. So, we wonder, what will relationships look like in the future? How can we “build back better” relationships?

The dignity of difference

Last week saw the passing of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, a man universally credited for raising the moral vision of the nation. Rabbi Sacks was particularly aware that in modern life we live with the “conscious presence of difference” as we all regularly bump up against people of different cultures and politics, identities and expectations. One of his major concerns was to show how we might live peaceably with one another when we humans are often so hostile and divided. His answer was biblical. He called attention to the revolutionary claim of Genesis 1 in which God says, “Let us make man in our image and likeness.” His point? If every human being on the planet is created in the image of God then each must be valued, protected, and honoured. We are to treat everyone as having equal value. This does not require us to tolerate every opinion or to capitulate to every pressure group, but to honour what he called “the dignity of difference.”

This challenge is both personal and profound. “Can we recognize God’s image in one who is not in my image? There are times when God meets us in the face of a stranger. The global age has turned our world into a society of strangers. That should not be a threat to our identity but a call to a moral and spiritual generosity more demanding than we had sometimes supposed it to be… Can I a Jew recognise God’s image in one who is not in my image?”

So how will we reset our relationships?

Some questions to stir up thought for Sunday.

  1. How can I personally take steps to honour those who are different from me?
  2. How do we together manage and value competing viewpoints and different perspectives in a church community whilst also having a sense of common culture and purpose?
  3. What biblical foundations help us to honour and welcome diversity?
  4. What blessings are to be found in choosing to celebrate variety and difference?