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One of the interesting things about being an Anglican school is that Rev Ben and I don’t just choose our favourite readings from the Bible to have in Chapel and talk about – we actually have a list of readings that the whole Anglican Church around the world follows. There are a few exceptions, but in almost every Anglican Church, whether you go to the St George’s Anglican Cathedral in Jerusalem, or St Peter’s Cathedral here in Adelaide, or to York Minister in Yorkshire (also dedicated to St Peter, as it happens), you will hear the same Gospel reading on that particular Sunday.

The sayings of Jesus from Luke chapter 14, verses 25–33 is one such example. It was Sunday’s reading last week, which I used for my talk with the students. It’s not a reading I normally would have chosen, precisely because it includes some of Jesus’ difficult sayings. He talks about the cost of discipleship. “Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.” Then, in an even more confronting way, at the end of the passage he says, ““Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it goodbye, you can’t be my disciple.” I don’t use this particular translation of the Bible very often, but I quite like the stark nature of the translation for this sentence.

What on earth is Jesus talking about? Kiss goodbye to what’s dearest to you? Surely that is too difficult, even for the most dedicated Christian.

I was struggling with this passage myself, until I read the commentary on Luke’s Gospel, written by my former assistant priest, Fr Ian, who is originally from South Africa. He stood up against apartheid as part of his Christian faith. He writes that, “The Kingdom is absolutely all or absolutely nothing.” You’re either “all-in” for what is good and right and just, or else don’t bother. When you think about the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, it makes perfect sense.

If you think about God as a metaphor for life, going “all in” for God and God’s kingdom is all about going “all in” for what is right in life. If you go “all in” for what is right in life, then that takes priority over everything else. You can’t just ignore what is wrong, not even when it’s something that your own team, or your own family is doing. If you think about God as a metaphor for everything that is good, everything that is life-giving, then that becomes your chief loyalty.

Let me give you a far less extreme example than the South African one, but one which, nonetheless, illustrates exactly what I am talking about. It’s an example of divided loyalties, where someone had the opportunity to stand up for everything that was good and right, but just walked past the bad behaviour, because his first loyalty was to his team.

As it happens, this story is also set in South Africa, although the scenario is far less life-threatening than it was when Fr Ian was preaching against apartheid in South Africa. Nonetheless, it’s an example of the kind of temptation you will face, when you’re forced to choose between doing what is right, one the one hand, and what benefits your family or your team on the other.

In 2018 the Australian cricket team was making tough work of it against South Africa. They were struggling to bowl out their opponents on a flat pitch. So, one of the players had the idea to tamper with the ball, to use a bit of sandpaper on one side of it, to roughen it up, so that the ball would swing. He suggested this to one of his teammates. The theory was that if they could get the ball to swing, they would be much more likely to take wickets and win the match. The captain, Steve Smith, walked past them as this tactic was being discussed by the two players. He took the approach of, “I don’t want to know about it.” In other words, “Don’t involve me.”

The trouble is, if you’re a leader, the behaviour you walk past and ignore is actually the behaviour you’re allowing, the behaviour you’re permitting.

Inevitably, as is almost always the case with cheaters, the two players were found out and their behaviour exposed. One was banned for 9 months, the other, whose idea it was, was banned for 12 months. The captain, whose only mistake had been to walk past and ignore the behaviour? He copped the full 12 months as well.

Sometimes, if you’re unlucky, you will have to choose between your teammates or your family and doing what is right. It’s a tough choice. Sometimes you’ll get it wrong.

But the good news, the great news actually, is that there is always forgiveness. There is always redemption. Even when we stuff up, in fact especially when we stuff up, there is always forgiveness and redemption. For Steve Smith the redemption came with topping the runs in the current Ashes series against England and almost single-handedly holding up the batting. Sometimes redemption can be a beautiful thing!

The Reverend Dr Theo McCall
School Chaplain