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23 January 2015

For the love of Del Boy

For the love of Del Boy

In the final stages of buying a holiday cottage in north Yorkshire, we have been immersing ourselves in successive episodes of the 1990s Sunday feel-good series Heartbeat with its gentle tales of policing and community life around the fictional villages of Aidensfield and Ashfordly.

Enjoyable as we find it, and as enthusiastic as we are about that part of God's own county, it doesn't warrant the response made by Darren Williams from Bristol, a passionate devotee of Only Fools and Horses who this week spent £4,000 having his whole back tattooed as a tribute to the show.

Does that mean that I'm not really a devoted fan, but more of a spectator –or is Darren taking his adulation a step too far?

The temptation can be to opt for the latter, but if so where does the line get drawn? And leaving behind the fictional world of TV, how far am I willing to go in showing my support for what matters to me?

In a climate where to stand up for what we believe about God can all too easily daub us with the label of Fanatic, I find myself wanting to avoid doing anything that might be misunderstood, or might make me stand out inappropriately.

Then I recall David – who danced so exuberantly before the Lord that his wife heaped derision on his head, or Daniel who defied the king by refusing to eat any meat, or Peter who, being offered his freedom in return for keeping quiet responds that he cannot help himself, but speak of what he sees the Lord doing. Here were people who showed their passionate devotion in ways that were misunderstood, and open to ridicule.

I was challenged some years ago when talking with a liberal Catholic interfaith advisor who commented that the thing that concerned him the most was the reluctance of evangelical Christians, in particular, to name the name of Christ in the public square.

Stories of Christians who find their jobs on the line because of their words or actions find their way into the media – and while my job may not be on the line for that reason(!) nevertheless what impact am I making?

The Church of England published a series of reports this week that General Synod will be discussing – such papers are not usually part of my bedtime reading, but one of them focuses on discipleship, and calls each Christian to live distinctive lives of witness and service. This, it suggests, is how we can stand out. Such lives are sustained, it declares, not primarily through courses, but through worship, mission and community – through being with Jesus, and being sent out.

Whether or not we choose to wear badges, t-shirts or tattoos, what shows our passion, and hones our impact, is our interaction with those around us. As a preacher, it is easy for me to declare that from the pulpit. Putting it into practice is much harder, because such interaction takes time, and often calls for a long game to be played. Somehow a tattoo (even one costing £4,000) can seem the easier option, for then we can return to getting on with our lives–and, in Darren's case, without even being able to see the fruits of his labours emblazoned across his back. But his action provokes me: if he will do that for his love of Del Boy, what am I prepared to do to show others my love for Jesus?

Mike Talbot is vicar of Emmanuel Northwood and chair of the Evangelical Alliance board 

Image by IDS.photos via Creative Commons