Not as simple as good or bad

Rt Rev Mark Sowerby, Bishop of Horsham
Rt Rev Mark Sowerby, Bishop of Horsham

This coming Sunday the country will pause, and take stock of the sacrifice and ongoing dedication of many men and women in the service of their country.

Remembrance Sunday is an opportunity to remember those who have given their lives, and those who still serve, to try and establish peace and justice in our world.

Rememrance crosses

Rememrance crosses

It is always a moving and profound day, and it follows on from a number of significant dates that we have recently observed.

In this last week we had the days traditionally known as All Hallows Eve (now Halloween) and All Saints Day.

In folklore, these days represent the bad and the good, the agents of evil and the agents of God.

A similar statement could be made about November 5th, Bonfire Night.

That is a day when we remember the discovery and foiling of Guy Fawkes’ plot to blow up Parliament.

When I was a boy, the night before that was called ‘Mischief Night.’

From what I recall, most of the mischief consisted of teenagers taking people’s gates off their hinges or wrecking carefully constructed bonfires prepared for the following day. That is not something to try at home please!

These pairs of days also stood as representatives of the opposites of human experience - Good and bad, light and shade.

We must be careful, though, not to over-simplify the challenges and horrors of war and conflict around the world.

There are, sadly, some clear acts of evil around our world and throughout history, perhaps especially during the last century.

But there is a complexity to any conflict that is not as simple as all on one side are totally good, and all on the other are totally bad.

We are all, if we’re honest, capable of demonstrating elements of both.

People renowned for their crimes are nonetheless capable of love and kindness. Others, with well-deserved reputations for doing good, may, nonetheless, have also done serious harm.

It is worth remembering the mixture in us all before we take sides against others in our own personal disputes, or when we are inclined to forget the the good someone has done because their failing has come to light.

This doesn’t excuse our failings, nor does it remove the need to take a stand for peace and justice in the world.

But it does serve as a reminder that we are all, at times, in need of self-reflection and to be aware of our own need to seek positive change for the good.