Rev Hilary Howarth and Pastor Chris Holmes

The writer of 1 Thessalonians wrote these words: ‘Therefore comfort one another with your words and build one another up, just as you are doing.’

I like many watched the live pictures from Parliament last week as our MP’s shouted at each other across the floor of the Commons. I was shocked and sickened by the vitriol spilling from people’s mouths and the looks of outrage and anger on faces. Words like “humbug” and “surrender” slipped easily from the mouth of the Prime Minister, but in all truth the words from the opposition benches were little better. I wonder what people in Europe and across the world think of our leaders when they see those scenes.

After the scenes from Parliament Rev Barbara Glasson, the President of the Methodist Conference issued a statement:

It is right that there is a passionate debate about Brexit, but there is much about the tone of the current debate that is concerning, sometimes it appears that many are committed to win regardless of the cost.

Our nation flourishes when we are able to respect and love one another – even those with whom we might fundamentally disagree. I am disturbed that the current political situation is apparently eroding our ability to be a society that nurtures such respect and love.

Our constitution is being tested. Opinions appear to have become more entrenched and extreme as the scramble to win continues. The recent vitriol and hatred expressed towards MPs across the political spectrum, who seek to serve their constituents with diligence and integrity, is a deeply worrying symptom of the recent discourse. I pray that we can see past the chaos of the moment and focus on the kind of society in which we wish to live. The yardstick for our actions should not be “Does it help me win today’s battle?” rather whether it helps us create the sort of society in which all of us can flourish.

When we see the people in authority behave in those ways does it give licence to all in society to speak in any way they choose, without thought or care for what they are saying? How do we as Chris(ans respond? How should we be speaking?

Well, differently for a start but if you’re on any of the Chris(an social media pla3orms you’ll see those things occurring there too, sadly.

Jesus talked a lot about “right living” but I’m sure he also included in that “right speaking” and in daily situations when the rhetoric and malice seem to raise the bar daily, how do we respond? The writer of Thessalonians, the oldest letter written in the New Testament, gives us some guidance as to how to use our words.

My morning devotions the other day were about offering encouragement to others. The definition the writer gave for encouragement was “offering someone verbal sunshine!” I like that phrase. As the days are ge8ng drearier and autumn is upon us, as frustra(on spills over because of the poli(cal situa(on, perhaps to offer “verbal sunshine” can be the simple response we make to those we meet. It could certainly brighten up someone’s day.

Before we speak perhaps we should THINK – is what I am going to say True, is it Helpful, is it Inspiring, is it Necessary and is it Kind? And if it’s not perhaps we’d be be)er keeping our mouths closed. Come to think of it, so should our politicians.

Prayer: Lord, help me to think before I speak and when I do may my words be sweet. May everywhere I go, may I pour verbal sunshine into someone’s day. Amen