When someone grabs the last Nutella.
"They are like animals. A woman had her hair pulled, an elderly lady took a box on her head, another had a bloody hand." For the next few days I would keep clear of Rive-de-Gier, in fact the whole of France, until the Nutella riots die down. You may have read in this morning’s media that Intermarché has slashed (should I say gashed?) the price of this chocolate hazelnut spread from €4.50 to €1.40. The result? Carnage, as crowds descend on their local store. Police were called in Ostricourt in northern France, where a fight had broken out. Some stores risked the wrath of their customers by limiting their purchase to just three pots. One stunned Intermarché employee did his best. «On essayait de se mettre entre les clients, mais ils nous poussaient.» We used to have regular Nutella riots in our family, entre nos filles in the days when they were fillettes for in the early 1980’s we could only buy Nutella on holiday in France. Not one shop in Heswall and then in Rochdale stocked the product. So as we handed out the baguettes at breakfast there was an immediate lunge for the Nutella. I must say that this did not include me – as long as no-one comes between me and my apricot jam, you’re quite safe. But the Nutella riots give us a cautionary insight into our human nature, in the immortal words of Freddie Mercury. “I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now, I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.” Of course, for much of the time we appear reasonable, even selfless. But when you see the last Nutella jar being taken, the real you takes over. And it’s not an attractive portrait. “The world is so competitive, aggressive, consumive, selfish and during the time we spend here we must be all but that, concludes Jose Mourinho. I’m not sure what consumive means, neither does my spell checker – but I know what the Manchester United manager means. And it’s not nice. I’ve just been reading in my morning Bible reading how Jesus welcomed the tax collectors and sinners, even to eat with them and to enjoy their company. This confused, puzzled the watching Pharisees. From their perspective Jesus was in danger, in danger of being contaminated by their impurity. My BRF commentator writes: “It is amazing – and wonderful – to see in the Gospels how sinners felt attracted to Jesus.” “Normally shame shuts us away from human contact, especially from any who might see us as we really are, and expose our shamefulness. But in Jesus’ case, sinners knew that he knew them, and that he wanted to be with them nevertheless – indeed that he celebrate his contact with them. So they were drawn to him.” It can take a Nutella riot for us to see the truth about ourselves. For most of the time our selfish nature is contained by social mores and polite behaviour. But it doesn’t take much for this veneer to be stripped away, especially when you can save €3.10 for each pot. And Jesus knows this – he sees right into the darkness of our hearts, he knows our deepest motivation, he is not fooled by our pretence. Even so he extends the love of God towards us with a passion which is awesome. But it’s one thing to be drawn to Jesus, it’s something else to be transformed by him so that we come a Zacchaeus willing to share, not because we have to but because we want to. We are talking now about the ministry of the Holy Spirit who begins a lifetime work of transforming us inside-out so that we willingly step aside and let someone else, even someone unsavoury, grab the last Nutella. It’s his work, not ours: his fruit appearing in our lives as we abide in Christ.
Christians are not Pharisees trying their hardest but disciples of Jesus learning to let go and let God. And it’s a whole lifestyle as the apostle Paul writes “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4). Such a life style is in stark contrast to what we see around us and certainly in every Intermarché store. So for this day may my resolve be to look out for the interests of others. No doubt God will put me in testing situations and it will be for me to learn to respond as Jesus would. And no doubt it will be a challenge as it was for the Good Samaritan. The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” (Martin Luther King.)