A Royal Rumpus

I’m not sure who does the washing at Buckingham Palace but it’s fair to say that the dirty linen has been cleaned in public this week! As I watched the interview with Harry and Meghan I personally  felt sad for the Queen but not surprised as the episode reminds us that in a fallen world certain struggles are true of life regardless of status.

In a fallen world relationships are hard to manage.

At times I have felt for Harry who is stuck between a rock and a hard place. There were some previous signs of pressure not least in 2019 when he was close to tears during a public event. He has been navigating the challenge of marriage with all the adjustments that go with it as well as dealing with his family and the ‘institution.’

Megan is also a strong character with her own ideas and when you throw in their relationship with the media and all the comments and opinions made from the outside looking in it’s easy to understand where the strains come from.

Managing expectations is always going to be hard in life even at ground level. Dealing with competing wills is tiring. Doing this within an organisation that at the same time makes legitimate demands upon those involved complicates matters further. In a world of opinions we can feel similar strains in church life and so echoes of Genesis 3 reverberate around these events and perhaps even our own lives at times. In a fallen world relationships are hard to manage.

In a fallen world families are hard to deal with.

Sometimes we long for perfect families that we can put on display but in a fallen world it is just not possible. Families have always been complicated and hard to deal with. The biblical examples are numerous.

Entering a family from the outside also brings with it certain challenges as people figure out where they fit in and learn the ropes of a new family situation. This works both ways although in Meghan’s case the pressure was mostly on her and this was no ordinary family!

Perhaps this is why the Queen went to great lengths to welcome Meghan. Aware of the step she was taking and aware of past mistakes and the difficulties of family life for anyone the Queen and Prince Philip seemed to go the extra mile as did Prince Charles. Hopefully everyone else did but the wheels have come off. Like every other family they are not perfect. People fall out and relationships are tense.

Some of the frustration we feel in life is because we have an inbuilt assumption that our relationships and our family life should just work out fine. Yet even as God’s perfect son, Jesus speaks of family divisions and experiences the impact of relational strains and we should not be too surprised when they surface in life.

Whilst we can hope for forgiveness and reconciliation between Harry, Meghan and the rest of the Royal Family it is also true that this side of eternity some things may remain unresolved. In a fallen world families are hard to deal with.

In a fallen world service is hard to do.

Harry and Meghan are right to point out that service is universal because we are made for service to God and others but it’s much easier to say that when your setting the terms and conditions yourself and receiving the personal plaudits for doing it. Service is much harder when you’re having to sacrifice and submit with what feels like little praise in return.

Although for some it seems laughable to say it I believe the Queen had to sacrifice and submit from the age of 27 when she was crowned  and even with the trappings of Royalty that is not easy as we’ve seen in Meghan Markle’s example. The Queen embraced this type of duty as service from and to God and has done so in a manner that is unequalled in the modern Royal Family.

Once again Jesus is the best example of what service looks like in action. Jesus  in his earthy life would receive no plaudits or credit and he would lay aside his majesty and stoop low. Meghan was hardly being asked to stoop low but she has faced the challenge and difficulty of laying aside her previous independent life and yielding to another greater purpose which she married into.

So too in life service is hard to embrace. I find it hard. Human beings fight and clamber for recognition. Human beings are desperate for our independent life even when it destroys us. Human beings are desperate to make a name for themselves rather than sacrifice and submit.

This is also what makes the gospel hard to embrace because it involves surrendering ourselves to God and serving Him with our lives but in a fallen world service is hard to do.

In a fallen world integrity is hard to come by.

In one sense you could say that Harry and Meghan have been brave in doing this interview. Many people are saying just that. The issues about racism and mental health and the support people need in life are important.  I guess they have both been through a lot of pain and hurt. Having said that I don’t know where the truth lies in what was said and I don’t personally think an interview like this was the right way to raise these issues not least because of the additional stress and strain it creates. Aside from these issues there were other elements of the interview that left me slightly bewildered.

For example Harry gave the impression that he was the enlightened one whilst his father and brother were trapped but Harry has been the one struggling with that issue not them. He didn’t have to make his issue their issue.

Harry also made the point that he had been cut of financially without any mention of gifts and inheritance he has received to the tune of millions not to mention the deals signed with major streaming platforms. I doubt those attending the foodbanks across Glasgow will sympathise with his financial plight but we are being asked to support them as victims.

There was a sense of inconsistency in what they were doing. They have both made noises about wanting privacy yet are doing an interview with Oprah. They have  made noises about spreading compassion in our world but show little compassion toward the Royal Family. Harry wants to be able to say he has compassion for his father and brother whilst actually doing the opposite and throwing his family under a bus.

So integrity is hard to come by which is why the Queen is so unique. The statement released from Buckingham Palace which is thought to have come from the Queen was short in contrast to the interview and mild when more could have been said in response. It was gracious and loving and recognised the importance of looking at the issues raised.

Of course if I want to see integrity in others I have to have it myself. I often fall short. Yet part of Christian integrity is recognising that and recognising what I sensed in the interview. That in a fallen world integrity is hard to come by and only Jesus has lived with perfect integrity. Perhaps part of my displeasure is because deep down I’m aware that what is on display in another human being is sometimes on display in me.

In a fallen world cultures continue to clash.

Finally, one last issue to touch on is the culture clash between Hollywood and the Palace.  Meghan admits that she was naive at the beginning. Unaware of the extent to which Royal culture would differ from her previous life as an independent person with celebrity status and this clash of cultures has created the deep division that we now see.

In recent times we have been thinking much about culture wars be it  political, social or racial. These events have displayed what we know about daily life. That in a fallen world cultures continue to clash.

Ever since Genesis 11 we have lived with a sense of distance from one another as a judgement against our selfishness and pride not to mention our rebellion against God. Negatively this means that our differences can divide us. Positively it means that we have to exercise more grace, patience and love to try and understand one another. For people who are scattered and separated from one another this doesn’t come easily.

We can be glad then that Jesus shows great compassion, love and understanding towards people who in their sin are as far from him and different to him as they can be.

We can be glad then that Jesus came to change all that is hard about living in a fallen world although as yet it is not fully realised.

The picture of heaven in the bible is that of a restored humanity living as a family. Where relationships are healthy and where the people are marked by the beauty we long to see in ourselves and others. The picture is of a multi-cultural people who are united in worship and service to God.

This is all because the Lord Jesus Christ went to the cross for us and did the impossible act of service when he died in our place and bore God’s judgement for our sin that we may be forgiven and restored. May we ourselves be enabled by his Spirit to do what seems impossible in our fallen world.