// no surrender!

“No Surrender!” was a rallying call of a certain subset of a social grouping that I was by accident of family and history a slight part of growing up. It’s all a little complicated when religion and politics and Northern Ireland all gets mixed in together, but the call of No Surrender! is a famous battle cry of Ulster Unionism and Orangemen.

And whilst I would strongly distance myself from that ultra-unionist group and the things that it finds it’s identify in, I do find the idea of No Surrender! in life very appealing. I don’t know about you, but I relish the chance to be James Bond, to go down kicking and screaming, to use my strength against something that’s difficult, to fight the baddies, save the world from nuclear destruction, to get the girl (figuratively speaking). If life were a movie I tend to identify with the minor character who gets killed near the start for doing something heroic and refusing to walk away.

This applies to all sorts of things, to the things I care about in normal life. I want to work hard to do well at university, I’m not going to give up half way through a rowing race, I’m going to put together a frigging awesome essay (oh dear, what a sad example – I need to get out more). Let’s be clear, it’s not that I’m any good at a lot of these things… but my attitude is generally that I’m not going to give up, or surrender. I’ll try harder, I’ll get up and keep fighting. This sentiment also applies to the things I really care about and that I think from a Christian perspective are important. 10 millions kids under the age of 5 died last year, and the vast majority of those deaths were easily preventable with existing technology. That kills me. 10 million kids, that’s a one followed by 7 zeros! Kids that could be running around, playing, being someone’s cousin, annoying older brother, bratty little sister… not making it until age 5 because the world can’t get it’s act together. And I want to do something about that. I want to kick and scream at the injustice, I want to shout about it, I want to fight and tell others until their blue in the face, and learn how to do sensible things about this, and then fight for the money and time and skills and opportunity to do those sensible things.

The other week I got to thinking about where God is in that. And rather than anger, thunderbolts, fight… the words that came to mind were words like Surrender. Humilty. Servanthood. Simplicity. It can’t all be about “doing,” but the things that we care about and act on behalf of need to arise from some sort of “being.” Being, with God, in community, surrendered who I am, my thoughts, hopes, dreams, desires all the things that make up my “being.” God doesn’t want me to have a superficial or purely intellectual understanding of His purposes flowing into doing but leaving out change in who I am and in my being. Rather it should be that who I am flows out of God as I surrender to him, and then the things I do flow out of who I am.

It’s not even because primarily doing it the ‘wrong’ way around wouldn’t work. There may be some truth in that, but – being honest – I occasionally feel that when people say something won’t work on your own efforts but only on God’s they’re using it as a convenient cop-out to not even start putting their effort into something. For me, full surrender to God is not necessarily so that we’ll more effective at working and action (I do hope we are, but I don’t for sure know if that’s the case and anyway if that was the motivation I’d have missed the point), but because surrender to God is the kind of worship that He desires. I think what a lot of this comes back to is worship. Worship as an all-encompassing act of gratitude to God and as a way of life. In the bible we read that God doesn’t want to know about the Israelites songs and piety if they put up with injustice (Jeremiah), God doesn’t want our offerings if we bring them before forgiving our brother (Jesus), God desires fasting that ‘looses the cords of injustice’ (Micah…I think). Working for justice is worship to God. Conversely seeing this as my struggle, my fight is worship of something else – of self determination, of James Bond culture, of my individualism and my capabilities.

And moreover I have a sneaking suspicion that if and as I surrender more of myself to God, more of my ambitions and plans, some of the things I care about will come more into focus. There’s a good chance I’ll get more angry about injustice and structural violence committed against 1.4 billion of our poorest neighbours on this planet as I understand more of God’s heart. But I’ll also be worshipping God, which is after all our chief end and purpose of man.

I’ve now pretty much completely lost the thread of what I was trying to say, and I can only apologise. Coherence is rarely a strong point when I get passionate about something. Surrender and action are not opposites to be held in tension, nor are they necessarily two sides of a coin in that they feed into each other but perhaps, if done properly, can be one and the same thing and as part of our worship to God. No Surrender is a stupid rallying cry!

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