Who will kiss Mick Philpott's feet?
From Brother Ivo:
Mick Philpott has committed a grave and reckless crime. He will be sentenced today by a judge who will have greater knowledge of the facts, history, and context of the case than any of us who are brave, foolish, or over-confident enough to express an opinion.
Already, many of us will have considered the issue raised by the Daily Mail when it suggested that this family was a product of our Welfare State which offered significant financial support with little expectation in return, with an early politically-correct caution against 'judgmentalism' as his wife or his mistress presented him year by year with a new child to boost his distorted concept of what it means to be a father.
For most of us, good parenting has strong elements of restraint, self sacrifice, and commitment, coupled with a determination to impart a good example and a desire that our children should become good contributing members of society. Mr Philpott seems to be different.
The more we learn of his significant criminal history, the income he drew from the taxpayer, and his apparent egotism, the easier it is to dislike him. He and those within the newly identified 'Precariat', who share his culture, are antithetical to almost all the collective values of the rest of society, and so when he comes to our attention for having been instrumental in killing six of his own children, his lawyer had one of the worst tasks imaginable in offering a plea in mitigation.
Christians will also struggle with this case.
Many of us will have children, or work with, teach, care for, love, support and advocate for Christ’s little ones. We will have no problem hating the sin, but loving the sinner? This sinner? Must we? Seriously?
Jesus had a severe warning for those who would harm the children he loves:
Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones (Lk 17.1).Yet we also know that our God is not limited as we are. He is a always a God of Justice but also a God of Mercy, and this presents all followers of The Way with a discomforting challenge:
Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven (Lk 6:36).We have a High Court Judge to whom the enactment of human justice has been entrusted, but that is not the end for those of us who are called to be the people of the Resurrection. The question remains: 'Who will kiss Mick Philpott's feet?'
On Maundy Thursday, we saw Pope Francis washing and kissing the feet of offenders. We do not know their crimes; Brother Ivo does not know if the Pope knew. We do not know if the victims of those offenders saw that re-enactment, or what they might have thought of it.
We do know that when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, he included Judas who nurtured betrayal and enmity in his breast even as Jesus included him in this most humble demonstration of what is expected of us.
That is how far He would have us go.
Whether it happens literally or figuratively, we ought to expect that some unknown Christian will reach out to this unlovely sinner. It may well be a prison chaplain, who may struggle with the idea of performing his or her service in this regard, and may even be rebuffed. How hard would it be for such a Christian to offer and perhaps be rejected when offering restored humanity? These are the risks we are called to take.
Yet still we must hope, and try and pray.
Taking the risk is the first and perhaps most difficult part. If we fear to offer, or allow our distaste to limit us, we cannot dare to succeed.
In these post-Easter days, we have to stand up for the unimaginable. If Christ can be raised from the dead, there is hope for Mick Philpott.
We may and should hope that, offered the service Christ commands, Mick Philpott may begin to be redeemed, comforted and restored. In that striking phrase, he can be 'loved into wholeness'.
There is no other way he can be changed.
Please God, it begins with a meeting and a question: 'Why are you here?' And the simple answer that Christians will be there for him because Christ offers him a more abundant life even than that offered by the Welfare State.
For many, that will be a greater challenge to accept than the empty tomb.
(Posted by Brother Ivo)