The world struggles to provide the sort of protection each of us really needs. Environmental protection programmes falter when they clash with big business interests. In a struggling economy governments have failed to protect people’s pensions. The Child Protection programme is based on excellent principles of safeguarding the most vulnerable children in society, yet those who want to exploit it continue to find loopholes. In today’s political environment many good people fear the effect on their lives of the potential loss of the protection given them by welfare and the NHS. No-one wants to be the subject of a protection racket, or to be in need of police protection, for the sense of vulnerability these things bring.
What sort of protection do we really need? Protection from all that brings us harm. Most of the examples from everyday life which I’ve mentioned relate to protecting us from external things - things which come from outside to attack us. But there are also those things which come from inside - those aspects of our inner life which bring us down, harm us, even destroy us as fully-functioning human beings. The church has long taught that we need protection from seven deadly sins: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Apathy, Wrath, Envy, Pride, and Vainglory. It’s quite a list. When I look back on my behaviour at the end of most days I can tick off quite a few of these.
Such behaviour makes the world a vulnerable place for so many people - as the privileged ones among us do all we can to protect ourselves, our own interests, the rest are left unprotected. In our interconnectedness, sometimes when we act to protect our assets this very action might make someone else vulnerable: consider investors in fracking companies in relation to property-owners in potential fracking sites, for instance.
Throughout scripture we hear God calling for his people to protect the widows, the orphans, the incomers, against poverty and oppression, to protect the poorest against the loss of land, property and income. And because the seven deadly sins are sadly still active in our world, God is still entreating we, his people, to protect the widows, the orphans, the incomers, the poor, of our day.
‘Forasmuch as you do this to the least of these my children, you do it to me,’ said Jesus in Matthew 25.40. We know God through protecting the vulnerable; it is through protecting the vulnerable that we know God - this insight is at the heart of the gospel.
- from today's talk, John 17 - God's protection.