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  • Writer's pictureRoss Moughtin

When you have nothing to lose

It’s essentially the Samson approach to negotiations. Simply threaten to bring down the whole edifice down – even it comes down on you as well. So we read in the Old Testament book of Judges 16:29f:

“Bracing himself against he two central pillars on which the temple stood., his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, ‘Let me die with the Philistines!’ “Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.” For Samson, read Alexis Tsipras, Prime Minister of Greece – and for the temple of the Philistine god Dagon, substitute the Big Three (the EU, the IMF and the European central bank). Ever since our holiday in Greece in 2011 I have been obsessively following the Eurozone crisis with increasing alarm. The live feed from the Guardian, edited by Graeme Weardon, is first rate. And now many people in Greece are suffering, not just the poor, mainly as a result of previous political corruption in their own society. But the intransigence of their creditors hardly helps. And we are now, it would seem, entering the end game. Surprisingly the Greek government is negotiating from a position of some strength, for as Bob Dylan sings “when you’ve got nothing to lose, you have nothing to lose.” Strangely it was Lord Byron, who fought for the Greeks in their war of independence from the Ottoman Empire, who observed that “the Christian has greatly the advantage of the unbeliever, having everything to gain and nothing to lose.” For the glory of the Gospel is that when in Christ we have nothing to lose, we have nothing to lose. For as Jesus promises “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39). This gives the Christian a resilience, a security which the world cannot even begin to understand. They can't touch us, however much they may posture. We can see this in the confrontation between Pontius Pilate and Jesus. As Pilate realised that events are going against him, he speaks the obvious, that as the personal representative of Caesar he embodies colossal political power. He is a person to be reckoned with. ‘Do you refuse to speak to me?’ Pilate said. ‘Don’t you realise I have power either to free you or to crucify you?’ (John 19:10). In reality, all that Pilate can do is have Jesus flogged and crucified, no more. And what appears to be Jesus’ complete vulnerability demonstrates his authority, for God no less is at work. In the Kingdom of God, weakness is power. And so Jesus calls on us to follow him in this way of the cross. In which case, the world with all its pretend power cannot touch us. We cannot be bullied. I recall some years ago, in the late 70’s when the Anglican church in South Africa was under intense pressure from the government. On being threatened with all church property being seized by the government the Archbishop of Cape Town, the saintly Bill Burnett, simply said: “Then take it!” He was quite prepared to see the institutional church die, knowing that the church is the work of God, not the buildings or even the institution. And as such, invulnerable. So for us when we face intimidation or bullying especially when it comes from someone who would claim authority over us. Our status is in Christ, we own him as our protector. That’s not easy when in the world’s terms we do have some wealth, status, a reputation. The knack is to count it all as rubbish, as dross. Just like the apostle Paul. “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:3) And for the sake of the Kingdom of God, Paul faced down all that would threaten him – even the Big Three: the world, the flesh and the devil. “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” So pray for the people of Greece.

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