GM: SAVAGERY IN JAMAICA AND THE USA; PEACE IN CHRIST JESUS
The headlines of the #Gleaner day before yesterday, captured in a single word, how much my country has changed, and the moral and social abyss into which it has descended. Savagery!
This, after a 3 year old was murdered and her lifeless and mangled body found by citizens in a rural and once peaceful parish in Jamaica.
The same vivid imagery could be applied to the death of the five officers killed in Dallas; and the two most recent cases of police brutality, where two black men were killed by white officers. And which incident sparked protest across the length and breath of the USA, even spreading to the UK, under the banner of #BlackLivesMatter.
An indictment on the inability of America to ‘ get it right’ in respect of race relationships. And an indictment on the political will to fix the crime problem in Jamaica which has led to this ‘ monster’ claiming the lives of young and old alike. Uptown but mostly downtown. Rural and urban folks alike.
In this context Dr. Brian Williams, the black head of the trauma team which tried desperately to save the lives of the officers is conflicted. As a surgeon he works well with white police officers and respects the difficult job they have. But as an ordinary black man driving in Dallas, he fears them on account of the negative experience he and many who look like him have had #CNN.
In the same way, we in Jamaica are conflicted. But in a different context. We desperately wan to get rid of the crime monster, but are unable to agree on what extraordinary, or ‘ smart’, measures ( for it cannot be the same old same old) to put in place .
Thus the ‘ Savagery ‘ continues. And Shakespeare’s ‘ new widows’ continue to howl.
The Christian narrative however does not allow for any confusion, debate or conflict in respect of how God prepares and expect his followers to ‘bear fruit’ in the midst of this savage onslaught against those Who He created on His own likeness. That’s the clear message I received this week.
How did the this message flow? First of all an Old Testament revelation which ought to exercise our minds in this 21st century far more that it does. Lest we become presumptuous before a Holy God:
http://bible.com/1/jos.24.19.kjv And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord : for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.
Then a quiet welcomed, not eerie at all, assurance one night that ‘ I abide in you’. Followed by a leading the next morning to read this passage of Scripture:
http://bible.com/111/jhn.15.1-8.niv “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
And if that was not sufficient the Gospel reading in our Church for Sunday coming features the encounter of Martha and Mary, two sisters, with Jesus. And Jesus’ profound observation that Mary who decided to essentially ‘ abide with Him ‘, had done the correct thing. While Martha, the practical one, left herself open to ‘ distractions ‘. Luke 11:38-42
The point here is that, we cannot serve the Lord and build His Kingdom of Justice, Peace, Mercy, Love and Righteousness in Christ Jesus unless we ‘ abide in Christ’. We cannot successfully fight against the kind of evil which has taken hold of our people, especially in the Western part of the island. A malevolent spirit of greed which has ensnared our people led them into ‘ scamming ‘; and then all too often death, sometimes of an entire family, on account of envy or thieves falling out.
President Obama hit the nail on the head in a moving speech last evening when he said that ‘ we know that there
is evil in the world.
But his contact conclusion, ‘ that’s why we need the police’, is only partly true; and deal with a very superficial understanding of evil.
For the reason why our Lord and Savior Jesus died and was with the mighty power of the Holy Spirit raised from the dead, was to defeat Evil, Sin and Death. So no police or soldiers can offer us ultimate protection from Evil. For they too, as we have seen recently, have to deal with their own demons. As we all do.
So Minister of National Security Robert Montague can threaten the criminals, as well he should, to bring all the power of the state against them. And Attorney General Marlene Malahoo-Forte can promise to use all means possible within the Constitution to deal with the criminals. And so she should even if faced with mounting opposition.
So too can the always eloquent and inspiring President Obama, and he was at his best last night in Dallas at a prayer vigil held in honor of the five slain policemen, attempt to unify a divided country. And so he must.
But the reality is that, without the abiding presence of Christ directing and empowering our efforts, what the Psalmist warns against will come to pass:
” Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain”.
A lesson that had stood the test of time. No wonder then that President Obama evoked the spirit of Ezekiel and asked the American people to pray for a ‘ new heart ‘.
For this is exactly what is required to save the lives of our three year girl children. People with a ‘ clean heart and a right Spirit ‘ within them. Not new policy directives in and by themselves alone. Not new or reinterpreted bits of legislation, in and by themselves alone. Not new initiatives to fix the social problems in and by themselves alone. Nor a combination of all three! But people, the Baptized of God, who abide in Christ and are not distracted by:
our desires and thoughts to fix things once and for all by our own strength and wisdom;
the seemingly insurmountable problems;
the failure of others to make a serious dent in the crime problem.
Then right beside the John 15 page was this meditation from one of the most prolific devotional writers ( over 240 publication), Andrew Murray, of all time.
WITHOUT ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING
Verse: John 15:5
Without the vine the branch can do nothing. To the vine it owes its right of place in the vineyard, its life and its fruitfulness.
And so the Lord says, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” The believer cab each day be pleasing to God only in that which he does through the power of Christ dwelling in him. The daily inflowing of the life-sap of the Holy Spirit is his only power to bring forth fruit. He lives alone in him and is for each moment dependent on him alone.
Without the branch the vine can also do nothing. A vibe without the branches can bear no fruit. No less indispensable than the vine to the branch, is the branch to the vine. Such is the wonderful condescension of the grace of Jesus, that just as his people are dependent on him, he has made himself dependent on him.
Without his disciples he cannot dispense his blessing to the world….. This is the high honor to which he has called his redeemed ones, that as indispensable as he is to them in heaven, that from him their fruit may be found, so indispensable are they to him on earth, that through them his fruit may be found.
Believers meditate on this until your soul bows to worship in presence of the mystery of the perfect union between Christ and the believer.
One final thought and a passage of Scripture entered my mind. And is in keeping with the message in the book I am reading and writing about. Rev. Timothy Keller’s ” Walking with God through Pain and Suffering”.
” Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was on the form of God,
did not regard equally with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself……and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a Cross. ” Philippians 2:5-8.
So though Christ is in us doing His work so that we may bear fruit in the continued fight against Evil and Sin, two constant thoughts need to occupy our minds. Humility and Suffering.
The first to remind us that God’s awesome power works through us not for our advantage, but to serve others who don’t know Christ and thus still live in the ‘ kingdom of darkness ‘.
The second is to remind us that ‘ when we are weak then God’s power is strong ‘. And that in our persecutions and trials ‘ His Grace is sufficient ‘. And everything works for His Glory.
So armed with these revelations let is storm the throne of grace, and pray that the Lord will pour out His Holy Spirit afresh on His Church. And enable and empower His people to ‘ abide in Christ, so that power may flow out of us to heal a troubled nation and world.