I read my Bible to see what men ought to do: an d read my newspapers to see what men are doing – John Newton ( a former slave ship owner turned priest).
Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation (s) – A Prayer for the Decade of Evangelism.
This week the news at home arose primarily from yet another surge of murders. Really heart breaking stuff incidents in particular involved the rape of a young school girl, and the splaying of a young and promising teacher; descriptions and pictures of his students mourning was very difficult to read. The link to the distressing story of a school girl who was brutally raped, is shared below:
and the general picture is described in another link;
The other story which caught my attention was a tweet from CNN contributor and New York Times op-ed columnist Charles Blow in which he posted his latest column entitled ” Sex is not our problem”.
The point which struck me, in particular, inter alia, was the documentation of the kind of liberal ‘ on the fast track’ lifestyle, manifest in their attitudes towards sex and abortions and STD’s ; and it’s inevitable consequences, which many are accepting as the norm, without shame or apology. And worse, offering solutions which do not cause any pain or remorse or the requisite profound change in attitude on the part of these young people. The challenge for the rest of the world is that this kind of lifestyle is being exported along with Pepsi and iPhones!
The fundamental question which then arises from all of this, is what has happened to mankind why we cause each other so much pain? A question which goes right to the heart of any discussion on crime and violence on the one hand. And changes in values and attitudes with its attendant effects, on the other hand. It is in this context then that I believe The Lord spoke during this week.
The week began with my being inspired to write an e-mail to a local politician whose appeal for divine intervention in seeking to solve the problem of crime and violence has landed him in ” hot water’ with some journalists, and others in the society. And so I wrote to encourage him to go a step further than make a request to God, but more importantly believe in His Son, Christ Jesus and him crucified. Also copied the note to other leaders in society
…….. you have to go a step further than ‘ asking for divine intervention. Read the Word carefully that was sent this morning, and the tweet I sent to you ……
Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, (1 Corinthians 1:22, 23 NIVUK)…read Jews demand divine intervention.
Then go back to where the Word started this morning:
” Now there were some Greeks among them who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Phillip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee with a request. Sir we want to see Jesus……….Jesus replied, The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified…” John 12:20-23
Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfil the word of Isaiah the prophet: ‘Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God. (John 12:37, 38, 42, 43 NIVUK)
The message is the same ……; you have to accept Christ and Him crucified, be baptized and serve God, if you are to make a difference in this ” demon possessed valley”. And do not worry about those journalists who ridicule you for seeking divine intervention. Your role is not to satisfy them,…seek praise from men….. but to trust God and His Son Jesus who died for you. And for them too. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. In my Father’s house….”.
He having received the note graciously responded. And so we had a behind the scenes discussion on the priority of “soul winning” vs social action. My understanding, as a ‘disciple’ of the late and widely acclaimed Evangelical Anglican Theologian Rev. John Stott, is that both are equally important. Further, I referenced the letter written by Screwtape to his junior devil, from one of C.S. Lewis’ classics, ” The Screwtape Letters, which I had included in the mail out last Sunday night, as witness that we need to be very cautious when we make presumptions about God’s mercy
About the general connection between Christianity and politics, our position is more delicate. Certainly we do not want men to allow their Christianity to flow over into their Christian life, for the establishment of anything like a really just society would be a major disaster. On the other hand we do want and want very much, to make men treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as a means to their advancement, but failing that, as a means to anything – even to social justice.
The thing to do is to get a man first to value social justice as a thing which the Enemy demands, and then work him on to the stage at which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice. For the Enemy will not be used as a convenience. Men or nations who think that they can revive the Faith in order to make a good society might just as well think they can use the stairs of Heaven as a short cut to the nearest chemist’s shop.
Comment – The point in all of this is that, even when we are at out wit’s end in respect of dealing with crime and violence, and the consequences of a lack of a moral compass in any society, if we elect to come to God for help, we must understand the nature and extent of God’s mercy and goodness. A subject which C. S.Lewis deals with extensively and in a very profound way in “The Problem of Pain”, which I am currently reading. The tweets which I sent out will give you an appreciation of where Lewis is heading.
@lucienforJesus: Now error and sin both have this property, that the deeper they are the less their victims suspect their existence.#CSLewis #Truth #Mystery
@lucienforJesus: God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience,but shouts in our pains; it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world #CSLewis
@lucienforJesus: The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as ail seem well with it. # RockofAges # washmeSaviororIdie
So far Lewis had put forward cogent reasoning for him, a former, atheist, and all others, to believe that there is indeed a Sovereign God in control of the affairs of man. That this God alone is God. That this God, for reasons that we cannot understand and Lewis suggests that it not very useful to try and find out why, created man and gave him free will. And that by virtue of The Christian Doctrine of ‘The Fall of mankind’, which is essentially how we came to be so disobedient to God, most of the problems and pain in this world can be understood.
In all of this I came across an observation by Lewis which I believe is one of the most important, even if simple, statements, about the required behavior of Mankind to a Sovereign God.
” Now the proper good of a creature is to surrender itself to its Creator – to enact intellectually, volitionally, and emotionally, that relationship which is given in the mere fact of it being a creature. When it does so, it is good and happy…..In the world as now know it, the problem is how to recover this self surrender. We are not merely imperfect creatures who must be improved; we are as Newman said, rebels who must lay down our arms”.
The problem for Charles Blow and the liberal press in the USA, and beyond is to found in the first tweet from Lewis’ book. Error and sin have become so entrenched, that folks do not even suspect that they are in error. Worse in sin
No wonder the Word of God, warns us that, ” The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God”. 2 Cor. 4:4 NIV
The Christian life then is all about surrendering to the Creator who made us. Reached out to us in Christ Jesus on the cross of Calvary; and empowers the baptized with the Holy Spirit. Thus enabling us to live a holy life, and to share this good news with others in their distress. And when we ‘fall down’, we are assured of God’s mercy if we seek His help. Seventy times seven!
But how far have we moved away from this simple formula for being happy and good. It is this context then that Lewis develops his theories about the reasons for pain. And offers three of them. Two are yet to come. The first one he calls ” terrible instrument” , and hence the second tweet about pain being God’s megaphone to ‘rouse a deaf world’. Remember how many persons flocked the churches after 9/11 in the USA. And we all know how many of us ‘ run to God’ in times of trouble, but when times are good, we promptly forget about Him. Locally, a driver of a huge tanker laden with gas, who escaped injury after bravely driving he track away from a thickly populated area, has since then expressed a need to ‘ turn to God”. As he felt that this was the Lord’s way of speaking to him.
As I read the last tweet and the profound reality, as addressed in the comments above, the second verse of Rock of Ages came to mind. As these words expressed very simply yet so accurately the kind of attitude that sinful man must have when he cries out to God for ‘ divine intervention’.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
Finally this week, I wrote a letter to the Editor of The Gleaner on account of an editorial published on Saturday, yesterday, January 11th 2014. Read the excerpt, or the entire piece at http://www.go-jamaica.com and see why I was moved to write. No so much in defense of the Minister, as I hold no brief for him, politically or otherwise. Although I work fairly closely with him, and have done so for years, with many others who hold that office. But rather in defense of the Sovereignty of the Creator God, and His compassion and mercy, and power shown through the church, the body of Christ, to may societies throughout the ages.
THE GLEANER EDITORIAL an excerpt of which is germane to this discussion.
…….We submit that killing a few gang members cannot be the centrepiece of any anti-crime strategy. National Security Minister Peter Bunting signalled that he was all out of ideas to fight crime when he declared sometime ago that the country needed “divine intervention”. With the country in the grip of a crime crisis, national security is one of the most important portfolios in the Cabinet, and if the minister is unable to effectively lead that ministry, then he should step aside. Although citizens have a part to play in helping to keep their neighbourhoods safe, it can’t be that the country looks to the religious community for the next big idea to make Jamaicans less violent and the country a safer place in which to live and work…….
Having read the Daily Gleaner’s Editorial today, as a Christian, with a long history of involvement in public health issues, of which crime and violence, the topic under review, is one, I feel compelled to make the following points. That a call by The Minister of National Security, or any other Minister of Government, or member of civil society, for ‘Divine Intervention’, in the fight against, what some may argue is the most important national issue going forward into 2014, Crime and Violence, does not mean, ipso facto that, such a call translates into that person being ” all out of ideas to fight crime”.
That the writer’s lack of appreciation at best, and ignorance at worse, of the role of the religious community in general, and the Christian church in particular, in advancing, and more importantly, attended by considerably sacrifice and pain, in implementing ” big ideas”, in nation building, is amazing in this era of easy access to information. An impression that one could reasonably deduce from reading the editorial. In that respect then, it leaves me to wonder if the writer has ever heard of Sam Sharpe, and read about his role in setting black people free from the shackles of slavery? All because of the ‘big idea’ that all men are equal before God! Has the writer ever contemplated the role of ‘church schools’, perhaps to which he or she owes a great debt, in shaping a nation? All because of the ‘big idea’ that education of the sons and daughters of former slaves, could better enhance their freedom, and build a nation!
If this nation had responded to the ‘big idea’ that “righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach”, then we would have avoided this madness about which, the headlines from another newspaper ‘cried for divine intervention’. For make no mistake about it, to wonder if there is ” A Devil amidst us”, is to implicitly ask God for help. Unless of course the writer of the Gleaner editorial is, unaware of, or unconvinced about, the role that evil supernatural forces are playing in this heart breaking national problem.
Either way, whether it is in carrying out one’s baptismal mandate to ‘ fight valiantly against evil’, or in joining forces with the rest of civil society in helping to lift people out of poverty, sickness and ignorance, the religious community’s ‘big idea’ of trusting in God, and loving our neighbour as ourselves, if adopted by more people, would go a far way in fighting against crime and violence in this nation. The Minister is right. And refreshingly so for a politician! We should encourage him and not
‘ pour cold water’ on one of his ‘ big ideas’. Either because of prejudice or ignorance. Or both!
Dr. Lucien W. Jones
The key point on which I have reflected deeply this week, is Lewis’ contention, and the whole weight of the revelations contained in Holy Scripture, is that, ” the proper good of a creature is to surrender itself to its Creator. For that is what we are, despite the assumptions made by journalists, philosophers, et al. Whether they feature nightly on CNN, or write in the high rated, by man, New York Times. Whether they hold sway in less celebrated news rooms in Jamaica or otherwise. Whether they hold high office, only at the pleasure and mercy of God, even though they often times are unaware or unconvinced though the Word of God says:
” Do not put your trust in princes
in mortal men who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return
to the ground;
on that day their plans come to nothing.” Psalm 146;3 NIV
And because we continue to ignore this basic requirement of creature to a Creator, then sometimes pain is what makes men sit up and take notice. Even when the pain is of their own making and not necessarily coming from the hand of God.
Perhaps America in its currently sexual revolution should listen carefully. Perhaps Jamaica going through its own pain of murder an violent crime should listen even more carefully. As unlike those in rich countries, as the Gleaner well knows, we have no excuse, or less, most of us having been exposed to the Word of God. Whether by grandmothers, parents or ” the village”. But yet we fail to turn to God until things ” tun up’ real bad……have become so out of control, to use more conventional language.
I pray God that, even now, we will listen and turn from our rebellion against a Sovereign God. And accept our sinful state and like the woman from Canaan whose daughter was possessed by a demon asked he Lord for help. And when he testing her faith and told her that ” he was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel”; she in response , ” came and knelt before him and cried, Lord help me”. The final result? An assurance of mercy towards her and her daughter. In like manner, we, in response to the problem of sex and abortions and STDS in the USA, and Crime and Violence in Jamaica, need to turn to Christ, and cry out to Him, ” Lord help us”. And he will. As He did on the Cross of Calvary, even when were we His enemies.
What love! What mercy! What power. And yet we are asking where are the big ideas. Have mercy!