I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing – John Newton
Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s) – A prayer.
News broke this weekend that Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, our two International Athletic superstars, had copped the male and female IAAF male and female athlete of the year award. What a great personal achievement for both athletes! What an achievement for ‘little’ Jamaica! What a vindication in the face of hostile and persistent forces, residing locally and internationally, whose utterances in respect of the problem ridden JADCO – tasked with ensuring that our athletes are drug free – might have led to the opinion, incorrectly so, that our elite athletes had not been as rigorously tested as they ought to have been! What a rejoicing here in Jamaica!.
During the week the ghost of ” Prince Michaevelli”, whose name has become synonymous with political machinations of the highest quality and intrigue, was manifest in some of the actions taken by the newly elected head of the Jamaica Labour Party, Andrew Holness. A letter of resignation, according to the reports, which was signed over a year ago, by all Senators, as part of a strategy to ensure compliance with the JLP’s position on one issue, was used without mercy, to remove two Senators, who did not back the leader in the recent elections. And who were resisting attempts to have them removed from the Upper House. Some claimed vindictiveness, whilst others suggested that it was a brilliantly executed political plan.
THE WORD OF GOD
As I contemplated the happenings in my country, and in my own life during the week, the first message from The Lord came into my mind during my early morning devotions on Thursday. The point in the message sent to my church family, as a word of encouragement, is that only if we are truly ‘ in Christ’ can we hope to make a difference in this nation where murder most foul, and other social ills, continue to haunt us. And the most important first step, is appreciate that, on account of our many, many sins,
” we come with nothing “, before a Holy God, except a desperate need for Christ and Him Crucified. And His Blood that purified us from all Sin.
All of us come to church on a Sunday morning, or evening, carrying different loads, bearing different burdens, experiencing different joys, viewing life from different perspectives. The one thing that ought to unite us is our love for ” that man from Galilee”. (Chorus: Oh, I love that Man of Galilee Who has done so very much for me. He’s forgiven all my sins, put the love of God within. Oh, I love that Man of Galilee. Even Christ Jesus!.
This morning whilst praising The Lord using Hymn ” Praise to The Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation” as inspiration, I was led to that most wonderful passage about unity in Philippians.
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: (Philippians 2:1-5 NIV)”
The question is how can we, coming from so many different backgrounds, have the “same mind that was in Christ Jesus”?
YESTERDAY – from Rock of Ages
Nothing in my hand I bring,
TODAY – from the hymn of the same name.
Just as I am, without one plea
The other verses offer additional nuggets of the faith for us to consider . But that is for another time. I pray God that all of us, beginning with myself, will heed this call, the only call, that can truly unite us. And make us one in the Spirit. Who knows then, how this Almighty God in His mercy will effect change, in this nation, in our homes, in our various communities, in our different situations, through a church which is truly ” in Christ”.
Praise to The Lord, the Almighty indeed.
The second message was sent to leaders in politics on both sides of the divide, and to members of the press and civil society. The key point here is that is that people who live in the darkness, i.e. without Christ, are liable to make choices to suit their best interests, even when such decisions demonstrate in the minds of some, elements of moral confusion. But in order to take the high moral road on such issues, one has to be very careful, that we who so accuse others, are not also walking in the same dakness. A morally confused place out of which flow many of the ills of a modern society, including crime and violence and other such wickedness. Against which society has only one option – to come into the Light of the Gospel of Christ, repent and be reconciled to God.
THE SECOND MESSAGE – EARLY SATURDAY MORNING
It cannot be coincidence that the following passages of Scripture came into my mind this morning during my devotions. At the end of week when so many persons are contemplating (and reacting with support or with objection), the recent actions by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition. A debate which, despite the out of context scriptural references, in the final analysis, is triggered by a secular society trying to figure out how to champion the felt need for morality and justice, without necessarily relying on the Word of God.
And in the midst of this debate, the undebatable Word of God, inserts itself. By calling attention to the most famous passage in the Bible: ” For God so loved the world………….”. And then more, much more, all of which have serious implications for those accused, the accusers, and perhaps most importantly for us who would offer that Word as the infinite reference point, without which, famous philosophers from Satre to Plato, have observed, that a finite point ( the law, rules, norms, conscience) has no meaning.
The Word comes in two inter-related parts.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (John 3:16-21 NIV)
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10 NIV)
One of the challenges that any society faces is the question of who watches over those who watch over others. Who, or which institutions, is or are responsible for being the checks and balances in a society. The Westminster type political arrangement with the Parliamentary Opposition assuming that role! Is it ultimately the Judiciary? What part does civil society play, however it organizes itself in galvanizing public opinion. Do we rely on “The fourth Estate”, the Media? And what role is there for the church? And does it matter to a nation that, really, at the end of the day, despite this current debate, others which have ” gathered legs” in the past and dominated the news, and those which will inevitably surface in the future, the only thing that matters, according to the Word of God, is whether or not we have ” believed in the name of God’s one and only Son! And that if we claim to believe in Him, and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.
Finally a Word that should challenge all of us, regardless of where God has placed us; in ‘little’ Jamaica, in Nigeria, in Pakistan, in Israel, in the USA, in the UK or in the far east:
” Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord,we try to persuade men.” ( 2 Corinthians 5:11 NIV). I pray God then that someone’s heart may be touched by this message. Beginning with me and then the church and then the rest of the society and nations across the world. As whether we accept is or not, we are all demonstrably, by our actions, Superstar or Prime Minister, Opposition Leader or DPP, Contractor General or Journalist/Talk Show Host, out of favor or reinstated politician, ordinary citizen or church leader desperately in need of the grace of God in and through Christ Jesus. Amen!