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Further reflections from Alexandria

As I have looked again and again at yesterday’s haunting image, and I have watched a welcome string of visitors to this blog coming in from Egypt – I have been reminded of a visit I made many years ago to a Coptic Christian family living in London. Although it was only intended as a casual visit, I was met with all the warmth and hospitality you would expect in any Egyptian home.  When at last I began to tear myself away I explained that I had to leave as I was due at the church to conduct an evening on the subject of the persecuted church. My charming hosts looked at me nonplussed. ‘Didn’t everybody know’, they enquired, ‘the church will always be persecuted’?  There was not an ounce of self pity or resignation in their voices. They said it with exactly the same tone as you or I might say “doesn’t everybody know what goes up must come down”. It was a law of their spiritual universe, just as gravity is a law of our physical universe.

I write all this as I am embarking on a preaching series through the book of Revelation. As ever, I look at its puzzling pages with a mixture of curiosity and trepidation. It has been said to me that the best hermeneutic of the New Testament, especially of books like Revelation, is to be found in the persecuted church.  If that is the case – then my collection of Bible commentaries is deeply impoverished. I have no voices from places like Egypt and others to guide me. Why is that? Is it just a kind of cultural imperialism which means that commentaries are translated from English but not into it? Or are we so busy pitying the persecuted church that we do not listen to what she has to say?

All insights welcome…

Richard Littledale

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