St Mark’s Gospel, at the end of chapter 9 of his book, confronts us with a surprising reality. The author suggests that Christians (ie people like us who believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ) do not have a monopoly on God. Non-believers who love and serve their fellow human beings are, in fact, Godly – even though they may not be followers of Jesus.

The real message for us to embrace today is to understand the real source of all goodness in our contemporary world, irrespective of who manifests that goodness, has its source in God. Every good deed, every act of justice, every non-violent intervention comes not from any humanitarian ideology – not even from people’s beliefs – but from God. We cannot limit God, or claim to know the many ways in which God uses human beings to spread goodness.

St Mark’s Gospel makes it very clear that Christians are not the sole possessors of goodness in our world. Nevertheless, and this is St Mark’s point, we Christians have a very special role to play in our contemporary world. We must ensure that we do everything possible to promote good people, whoever they may be and whatever they believe – But, more importantly, we Christians must never be an obstacle to the goodness that we encounter from another person – irrespective of who they might be.

There is a simple lesson to learn today. It is the invitation to applaud the people we meet who are intrinsically good – No matter who they are or what they believe. When we applaud and acknowledge really good people, we applaud and acknowledge the goodness of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

Rev Fr Tom Stevens