I lived in Paris for a year from 1988-1989. It was my first experience of living in a major, multicultural city, and my first post in full-time Christian ministry. Today I have stood in front of a now-faded print of Paris that hangs in my study and prayed for that city, after the atrocity there last night.
Those who murdered in Paris last night cloak their desire to destroy and dominate in the name of God – and let’s not forget that the word ‘Allah’ is simply the Arabic word for the French ‘Dieu’ or our ‘God’. They claim to kill in the service of the same God in whose service I seek to bless and forgive. And of course, the majority of Muslims seek to bless and not to destroy in the service of God, though they and I may disagree about many things in our view of the one God we try to serve. We have to be open about our disagreements, but I believe that the current world situation demands that we work across boundaries of faith and theology to affirm the side of any faith which affirms and enriches life, and to oppose that in any faith – even my own Christian faith – which seeks to affirm death and to limit life.
In today’s reading, after the writer has spoken of how Wisdom was at God’s side in creation, ‘brought forth’ before the world was made (echoes again of John 1) I found this.
“Whoever finds me finds life and obtains favour from the LORD.
but those who miss me injure themselves: all who hate me love death.” (Prov.8:35-36)
We need wisdom for this time, and wisdom calls us to seek life.
Wisdom is the underlying nature of the universe, the order and beauty which God has woven into all that is. She calls us to seek her, and to listen to her voice. ‘Listen’ is a word that comes a lot in the book of Proverbs – far more than ‘speak.’ Wisdom is clear that her call is to ‘all that live’ (8:4), and that her delight is in ‘the human race’ not just to and in one nation or faith. This universal call is to
Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight. (9:6)
I can’t help wondering whether perhaps Lady Wisdom might be a guide towards some common ground between my faith and those of others. She becomes human in Jesus of Nazareth, and that is where I see Wisdom most clearly. And I treasure the Cross which is the means and the symbol of the salvation which Jesus has won for the world. But I know that the same Cross has been used in many ways, and that to the Muslim world it is not a symbol which speaks of God’s love and peace. Might Wisdom lead us into better understanding and a better chance of peace?
It may be a forlorn hope. But it is a hope, and I think we need one of those.
I haven’t generally allowed these posts to be topical, but today I didn’t feel I could do anything else. Wisdom calls. Let us listen, and seek life.