John Denney, 2 AUGUST 2000


This week, scientists have come up with a way of processing eggs that kills off any salmonella bugs.  According to the press reports, their secret method uses “natural heat”.  And that left me wondering.  What on earth can unnatural heat be?  It’s like all those other odd contradictions in terms you hear from time to time.  There’s a bar in Granby Street that advertises “Happy hour, 5 ‘til 7”.  If olive oil is made from olives, what is baby oil made from?   A colleague told me his flight to Los Angeles was advertised as “non-stop”, but it didn’t seem to worry him.  And have you ever thought that what we call the First Century B.C. is in fact the last Century B.C.?  The label of a jar of sandwich spread I bought the other day said it was the “New, Improved, Original recipe”!  Confused?  You bet!


Things can get even more confusing when you go abroad.  In a small German hotel I stayed in some years ago, there was a sign on the back of the door of my room.  It said: “In case of fire, do your utmost to alarm the hotel porter”.  And a friend told me of a sign he had spotted outside a Hong Kong dentist: “Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists”.


All of this goes to show how difficult it is for one human being to communicate clearly with another human being.  And it’s not just language that makes it difficult.  It can be the way we stereotype each other.  We make assumptions about the other person’s attitudes and don’t listen to what they’re really saying. 


People often misunderstand Jesus.  “Gentle Jesus meek and mild” isn’t the Jesus of the Bible: angry Jesus who threw the moneychangers out of the Temple; loving Jesus who forgave the men who executed Him; powerful Jesus who brought healing and wholeness to so many people; courageous Jesus who confronted the corrupt establishment of His day.


And people often make mistaken assumptions about Christian attitudes to things.  For instance, because the Church considers homosexual acts to be sinful doesn’t mean that the Church hates homosexuals.  Far from it.  Because the Church is entirely populated by sinners, and our sins are no less intolerable to God.  Perhaps, though, there is a difference.  For the community of the church, whether the people in the pew, or ministers, or priests, or bishops, or archbishops or popes are indeed sinners – but more importantly, we are repentant and forgiven sinners.  And that’s no contradiction in terms.


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