Working for the past two years as a Development Worker for Imagine Norfolk Together in Great Yarmouth has opened my eyes. I’ve come up against some of the worst of human nature: local rough sleepers describing being attacked and urinated on; police reports of modern slavery victims in our area detained in squalor; hearing of racist insults directed at hard-working migrants.
I’ve also been witness to incredible displays of kindness, including a homeless man taking younger, newly homeless people under his wing and ensuring they knew the safe places to sleep; volunteers who give so much of their time and energy to offer shelter, food and company where it is needed; and young people who sacrificially support their peers through family or mental health issues.
These extremes of human nature, in turn, appal and amaze me. But the full truth is more complex. We are not all human traffickers and neither are we all involved in rescuing victims of trafficking. We are not all racist, nor all heroes. Sometimes we might walk past a homeless person and sometimes we might buy them a drink and chat. Sometimes we might spend time with someone who is lonely; other times we might feel we are too busy with our own problems.
Solzhenitsyn, who experienced human cruelty first-hand, wrote: “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart.”
This is what the Bible communicates too. We are all made in the image of God, with the capacity to love, show compassion, and fight for justice. But we don’t always live up to our potential. All of us make mistakes and let ourselves, each other and God down.
But because of the love and forgiveness of God offered freely through Jesus, our mistakes and weaknesses don’t have to be the defining marks of our lives. And knowing that we are forgiven, loved and set free by God is a great motivator for us to show forgiveness, love and justice towards others. We all have the capacity for good and evil, but God promises that “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1). He promises that His light can be a greater force than the darkness in our lives and society.
You can read a more about Anna’s work in Great Yarmouth here.