In the midst of challenges that are so obviously out of our control – things like viruses, natural disasters, global financial crises, human violence etc – we are in a good position to remember and appreciate that we are not invincible and we are not in control. 2020/21 has helped us remember once again that the world is a deeply troubled place.
It seems to me that it is so easy, especially for ‘western thinking’ people, to miss how important this is and to assume we are entitled to comfort and order. The injustice and the pain experienced by others often tends to be less visible or real to us in our comfort zones. A precious moment in time where our common humanity hit home, was for me when the COVID 19 crisis exploded on the scene. As the uncertainties and restrictions increased more and more people seemed to realise in their discomfort, how much more people in other circumstances would be affected. A spirit of generosity and consideration for others came to the fore in so many people.
The fact that we all depend on one another to hold up our end and that what we do and don’t do affects others was also illustrated by hospital admissions and deaths, not just across the country but across the globe.
In Africa and many other parts of the world, the daily challenges of poverty, hunger, disease, natural disasters, wars and oppressive governments, makes our dependency on one another and circumstances even more real and if we are living in Africa (South Africa) and still missing the relevance of this we may want to pray about it! As Christians we cannot afford to forget that the world as it is right now is not only ‘fallen’ and dysfunctional but it is not our final destination – the return of the one who actually has the power to make things right is where our hope lies. Our hope is larger than a hope that is just enough for ourselves and larger than just what is happening in this life.
Pandemics, wars, violent Extremism, corruption, perversion etc are a feature of our fallen world, a world which has to be made new. When Christians truly place their hope in the saviour of the world and not individuals or governments, their peace, grace and ability to love all their neighbours in the midst of chaos and crisis provides a light that enables more people to see past the here and now, hold on in tough times and to embrace a way forward.
Yes, it is important to see the world as it is and to be relevant in the ‘here and now’ BUT we must also see things in context – as they have been historically and as they will be one day or through the eyes of eternity.
I am always encouraged by the thought that the outcome is not our concern just being what we are and need to be wherever we are, channeling His light and modelling His love and forgiveness is enough.
I can’t help thinking of 2 Chronicles 7:14 where God says “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” What stands out for me the most here, is that it is NOT those who don’t know Him who must change for healing to take place, it is us, those who do know Him. It is those who are called by His name who must humble themselves – get off our high horses and out of our glass towers. Our self righteousness and talking down to others as if we have no human failings won’t cut it. ‘There but for the grace of God go I’ has to infiltrate our consciousness or we will continue to miss the mark and the promise will not be fulfilled. The promise does not depend on those in captivity, the onus is on those of us who have been set free.
Humans of course usually see deliverance in terms of military solutions – strength might and power are our default thinking. The birth of a baby who will die on a cross at 30 years of age IS NOT for example our idea of a realistic strategy. And yet this was what it would take.
Our salvation is beyond the scope of the world as we know it – our mission is to be used by God – in whatever way He sees fit – to break the chains of captivity that the people of the world are in – not to be finger pointers or right off the very people Jesus gave His life for. Contrary to our natural instincts it will be in what humans see as weakness that we will be strong in terms of this mission.
We ‘defeat’ our real enemy when captives are set free – not when they are annihilated before being saved from sin and death. We defeat the ‘one’ enemy of God when we are free from fear and when we help others choose hope and not fear.
Hope is a strategy – my prayer is that those of us who know better, will commit to spreading Hope and not Fear?