THE RT REV CHRISTOPHER FOSTER: Love remains the benchmark for what it means to be a Christian

The Bishop's Lent Appeal in 2017 raised more than �30,000 for global and national charities. Representatives picked up their cheques from the bishop during a service at Portsmouth Cathedral
The Bishop's Lent Appeal in 2017 raised more than �30,000 for global and national charities. Representatives picked up their cheques from the bishop during a service at Portsmouth Cathedral
An Arab soldier in Syria Picture: Shutterstock

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The Bishop of Portsmouth on his Lent charity appeal to help refugees.

Every now and then we find ourselves being asked to think about what British values might be.

Sometimes it’s because of things that are going on in politics, and sometimes it’s because something in the wider world gets us thinking about who we are as a nation.

Along with the question about values, you sometimes hear people talk about whether or not the UK is, or should be, a Christian country. I wonder what you think about that?

I wonder what it would mean to be a Christian country anyway. Is it to do with our history? Is it because we have an established church? Is it to do with how many people go to church, or how many church buildings we have?

You could answer it any number of ways, but as a Christian bishop I wonder what Jesus himself would say about what makes a country Christian or not.

At least one thing that comes to mind is this – when Jesus teaches his friends about what it means to follow him, he says that they should be known as his followers because of their love.

And love doesn’t just mean sentimental feelings here, but their willingness really to put each other first, look out for the needs of others in genuine, practical ways.

Despite the times when we fail to live up to that, that sense of love remains the benchmark for what it means to be a Christian. So if a nation were to claim to be Christian, then it would aim to be characterised by that kind of love.

And – whether or not you think the UK is a Christian nation – aiming to be a loving nation in that real, practical way might be something worth striving for.

In this season of Lent – between Ash Wednesday and Easter – I have launched an appeal for charities that work to help refugees in rebuilding their lives.

Some of these charities operate overseas, and some will be closer to home, but all contribute to that sense of our nation being characterised by love that reaches out, cares about our neighbours both near and distant, and is practical and compassionate.

You can read more about the appeal here at portsmouth.anglican.org/lentappeal2018.