Unreached Network

how are the british seen? is a more sober self-awareness needed?

Part of Global Humility is Public Humility – being aware of the role and perception of your nation within larger global trends, as this impacts the brush with which individuals are tarred.

International perception of Britain has changed in recent years, and British overseas workers would do well to be cognisant of this. Possibly the most painful truths for Brits to swallow are that Britain’s self-assumed moral leadership is increasingly not recognised (talking big stuff about global human rights on the world stage whilst domestically introducing frankly illegal changes to immigration policy), and that the oft-boasted stability ship has also sailed (many international voices point out the rapid changes in government and leadership in Britain over the last few years).

“Surely there must be something between saying that you’re world-beating at absolutely everything and really defensive fragile worries about ‘talking Britain down’. It’s just confusing to me. Surely the mark of a sensible, realistic strong country is to be confident but also to be quite sober about what it can and cannot achieve.” Helene von Bismarck

This foreign policy identity crisis, “who are we really in global perspective? Are we big and influential or small and insignificant?” is also discernible in outward-facing British Christianity. Why can’t there be, in between the neo-colonial self-aggrandising and the post-colonial self-flagellating, a more objective and, yes, sensible self-perception as a post-Christian nation with a mixed history of contribution to world mission (some very godly legacies, and some very evil), and a sober self-awareness of today’s contribution.

How the British church is perceived within the global Church, and how individual missionaries are received within unreached spaces is, like it or not, one of the small realities upon the ever-shifting terrain of global perception and reception of Britain more generally.

In this context, perhaps reading Romans 12:3-6 through a less individualistic and more global and situational lens might help with sobriety of perspective.

“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” Romans 12:3-6