Sam Wells suggests that it is very hard to believe “that if someone truly knows you, they will truly understand and love you.”
That is because of the sense of shame that we feel.
Sam Wells is reflecting on Psalm 139 which begins with the words “You have searched me and known me.” He points out that we make knowing and loving enemies of one another. God, on the other hand unites them.
The separation of knowing and loving is an everyday experience for us. Lovers of Coronation Street are seeing that played out through the interplay between Phelan, Gary and Owen. Phelan “knows” Gary was prepared to leave him for dead, and uses that knowledge vindictively for his profit.
Jesus also knew that people were prepared to leave him for dead, but his knowledge is full of love, just as his love is full of knowledge. That love showed itself in Jesus’ absolute passion to forgive those responsible for his suffering.
With us, knowing and loving are separate, and there’s always the fear that if someone really knew us, they’d have a power over us that they could use to hurt us, or that they’d see through us and cease to love us. But God’s knowing is different. God’s knowing and loving are indistinguishable. There’s never a moment when God knows but doesn’t love, or loves but doesn’t know. That is the gospel we can hardly begin to imagine. God wholly knows because God wholly loves; and God wholly loves even though God wholly knows.
from Learning to Dream Again p24
Coronation Street has a story line about the politics of casting for the local Nativity. (Hopefully Simon will get the role of the innkeeper). The innkeeper is always cast in a good light. He is the one who found room for Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem when everyone else was shouting “there isn’t any room”. For Mary and Joseph this innkeeper is the landlord from heaven. For us, he is one who found room for Jesus.
I suspect that many greet a roof and bed with a sigh of relief, particularly after long travels, or through being made homeless, or through economic migration. Mary and Joseph would be no exception. Often the shine soon rubs off as they realise that they are trapped by landlords from hell.
This week’s Channel 4 documentary Landlords from Hell highlights the shameful conditions many people have to live with. Good housing seems essential for good mental health and physical wellbeing, and it is such a shame that those who are most vulnerable in our society, and have such little control over their living conditions, are subjected to really squalid shelter. I know how much I value my home and how important it is that it is comfortable, clean and reasonably orderly. That means that I have a place to relax and recover. That would seem to be a basic human right. The programme is part of a Channel 4 campaign to expose the Great British Property Scandal. Shelter’s Chief Executive, Campbell Robb writes:
Every day at Shelter we see the devastating impact these landlords have on peoples’ lives as families remain trapped in homes that cause misery, and, in some cases, put lives at risk. What’s more, we believe thousands more families could suffer as changes in the Localism Act will see councils placing more vulnerable homeless households in private rented housing.
|Beulah House Hotel featured in Landlords from Hell
(Beulah comes from a Hebrew verb meaning to own– ironic!)
Jon Snow was the presenter of the Channel 4 documentary. Before his career as a journalist Jon Snow worked for New Horizon Youth Centre, a day centre for homeless young people in central London (with which he has remained involved since). At a time when we are so hacked off with journalists and the abuse of their power, Jon Snow’s example is a refreshing reminder of what good journalism is and what good journalism can do to bring to the light of day those things hidden in darkness. He confronted some of the guilty landlords with the grim realities of his findings, and hopefully they will take steps to put things right. I hope they will do that without recriminations, though I fear for those whose landlord threatens his tenants with the baseball bat.
I wonder how good the landlord in Bethlehem actually was. We aren’t told how much he charged for the room. We aren’t told whether he moved another family in after Mary and Joseph had shown him the potential for letting the room out. And it did have a misleading Michelin star over the door. I suspect that it is more helpful to be shown the rooms in the Apollo Guest House and the Beulah House Hotel (featured in Landlords from Hell) as the place of our Saviour’s birth. After all, they are the places for those for whom there is no room – bed bugs and all.
Friend Karin – @KarinLyle1
wanted to comment to this post with photos – couldn’t, so I add her comments as a PS and with thanks.
Just wanted to reply to your “Landlords from Hell” Blog with two pictures of “Hospitality from Heaven”. Neither image does justice to the ‘peace’ and the ‘fragrance’ in these two pictures, nor to the graciousness of the hosts.
If only we could offer a welcome like this to the weary and outcast in our society.
The Fruits of Sandra’s Garden
Bedroom view from St. Beuno’s