Robert's Ruminations

The thoughts of Revd. Robert, Minister for Emmanuel, Ilfracombe

Intimidation and Worth

No individual, group or nation likes being pushed around. We all like to arrive at our decisions without being intimidated into submissive agreement by a stronger party. Even if our decision turns out to be a blunder, we tend to prefer the freedom to make our own mistakes over being forced to do what others judge to be right. When someone stands at your door and makes you an offer, while his armoured tanks take up position at your gateway, it tends to concentrate your attention and it is usually understood that this is an offer you can't refuse! But some people do refuse. And depending on your point of view, they are either mad or martyrs.

The point is illustrated well in a story about Philip 11, who was king of Macedon around the middle of the fourth century B.C. Philip was a bit of a bully, the kind of leader who always got what he wanted - if he couldn’t get it through diplomacy, he would take it by force. He had managed to subdue all the major Greek city states, all of them that is, except one, the state of Sparta.

The Spartans had remained stubbornly independent and eventually, Philip decided to make them an offer he thought they couldn't refuse. He sent a message to the city leaders, "You must submit without further delay. If I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, I will slay your people, and I will raze your city." The Spartans' reply was a simple one-word answer, it was taken directly from Philip's threat: "If". The Spartans had no intention of being intimidated by Philip. As a consequence of this one-word reply, Philip made the conscious decision to leave them alone and he headed back to his own lands.

Our world today seems to be full of people only too willing to use such bullying tactics to get what they want. Countries face each other over disputed borders, guns in hand and fingers on buttons ready to send the world into meltdown. Communities destroy each other just because their views are different from their neighbours. Faiths contend to put across their own theologies often at the detriment to others they claim they ‘hold in love’. Families tear themselves apart because of an ill-spoken word or a misinterpreted action.

But in all of these situations we each react very differently depending on the type of person that we are and those life-experiences that we have encountered in our lives. Some react violently and the subsequent outcomes are not good for anyone involved. Some react in a very ‘matter of fact’ way and feel as though they are just ridden roughshod over and thought of as weak. But the problem is not so much how we react to intimidation, but more a case of why should we be put in a position of feeling intimidated.

In many of the Gospel writings, Jesus speaks out so strongly against any form of intimidation. He does not disguise the truth that, in their turn, like him, his disciples will be confronted by those who threaten, bully, and intimidate others into submissive agreement. Jesus' advice is clear: not only does he want his disciples to refuse to submit to such people, he tells them not to be afraid of them: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul".

Like the followers of Jesus, we too may find ourselves face to face with the kind of violent intimidation that gives us an offer we can’t refuse - Jesus tells us to refuse it! We have a real and proper choice to make – accept Christ as our own, or not. Christ says to accept the one real choice that leads to a fulfilled life. So, let’s not be afraid, but instead let us live our lives for Christ and overcome fear with hope.

Every blessing,

Rev Robert.

Remembering to forgive


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Thursday, 23 January 2020

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