I've just been reflecting on "prophetic living" whilst working on a project for Ekklesia around Remembrance Day
My mother runs a pregnancy crisis charity in Bristol. She describes their work as having two dimensions: pastoral, in the counselling and support work they do for crisis pregnancy, and prophetic, in their education work around self-esteem. The prophetic element looks to address and solve the root issues. The basic principle is that you have to value yourself before you can value others, particularly in the context of the unborn. So, if teenage pregnancy is really going to be reduced, we need to change not only society's attitude towards sex but ultimately towards self and 'other'.
I think that the idea of the “prophetic” underpinning our ideological approach to life as Christians should be explored further. If we are serious when we pray for 'God's Kingdom to come on earth as it is in Heaven', then a prophetic approach to life, by which I mean one that sees and seeks to realise the potential for positive change, is essential.
It might seem strange to want to apply this idea to remembrance, which is expressly about “remembering” the past, which cannot be changed. However, (as Jonathan always says!), remembrance matters because how we remember affects how we act. The value system within which our remembrance outworks itself is or becomes the same value system within which life outworks itself.
So remembrance is as much, if not more, about the future as it is about the past. It is in this that our remembrance becomes prophetic – prophetic either of a continuation of history, or prophetic of change. Christians have a mandate to uphold God's values, which are often in conflict with those of the world.
The values traditionally associated with Remembrance Day are a prime example. The world often heralds war as glorious, death in war as glorious, and is concerned for the plight of our nation above that of others. It implicitly tells us that war is a viable means of redemption, and, more historically, that God is usually on the side of the victor. This stands in stark contrast to God's desire for everything to be at peace.
There is huge potential for positive change expressed in the concept of prophetic remembrance, yet at the moment the prophetic element often seems to be that of inevitable (continuing) doom as we perpetuate unhelpful values around warfare.
Yet, with different values at its heart, remembrance would become prophetic of positive change. If we replace dated notions of glorious war with a genuine commitment to peace, we could start to value the work of conflict resolution groups and conscientious objectors. If we remove the spotlight from ourselves and work towards a multi-cultural, universally accessible remembrance, we will be a living example of cross-cultural peace and understanding, making every person a “neighbour”.
If we reject the fallacy that redemption through violence is possible, there will be space for a new focus on truly redemptive power of Jesus' non-violent attitude, which reached fulfilment in the cross. In this, prophetic remembrance would become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. For, such active prophetic remembrance lays the foundations for much bigger, long-term change.