I live in Great Britain and am pleased to do so. Not everything about our nation is brilliant, yet there are lots of good things to be thankful for.

So what is it about Britain that makes it ‘great’? I was reading a few proverbs to our boys last week from the New Century Bible and this one stood out:

Doing what is right makes a nation great. But sin will bring disgrace to any people. (Prov 14:34)

Greatness comes from doing the right thing. From making right choices. By living wisely and well. That’s what makes a nation great. Whilst every nation wants to prosper, it’s not primarily about economic wealth. Whilst every nation wants to be secure, it’s not primarily about political influence or military power. Whilst every nation wants to be healthy, it’s not primarily about having the best health service. Important as these things are, there’s a larger vision, a higher notion, a more noble calling. It’s about ‘doing what is right’ – what our ancestors used to call being righteous.

The word righteous is rather out of favour these days as its use has often been twisted to mean an imposed morality – a forced draconian way of living. But that’s not what being righteous is supposed to be about. It’s simply about doing what’s right. Doing the right thing. Making the best choice – sometimes the hard choice – for the sake of others. Jesus said greatness is linked to serving (see my 2012 blog Great Olympics, Great Britain). That’s how Christ lived. And that’s how his followers are called to be, empowered by his serving Spirit. When we forget that and live self-centred, selfish lives (as Prov 14:34 makes clear) our decisions often are poor and sinful and so often lead to exposure and disgrace.

It’s good to aspire to be great but to be great is greater. It requires both leaders and ordinary citizens to simply do what is right. In small decisions as well as big. Not just when others are looking but even when no-one else is around. Not in somebody else’s family, but in mine. Not somewhere else, but here. Not in the future, but today. Not in someone else’s life but in mine.