It’s easy for us as Christians to want to look at Jesus and His life as super spiritual. But this year my view has been challenged through a book “Walking as Jesus Walked” by Dann Spader. I’ve started seeing Jesus’s human side and understanding the pain, the suffering and the choices He had to make for us, so that we may have life and have it in abundance (John 10:10b).
Jesus’s story, as told by Matthew 1:18, began with a crisis. We find in the gospel of Mathew that Mary was betrothed to Joseph, then the big “P” word: “Mary is pregnant out of wedlock”. I can imagine the rumour mills in such a closed community and culture. We find Joseph hurt but, being a greater person, he chose the ‘higher path’ of deciding to end things in a noble manner. However, Joseph later had a dream where he was given instructions on what to do and he followed this to the letter.
How do you react to crises in life? Are you always determined that the other person will leave the situation with dignity, like Joseph planned to leave Mary? I struggled with this and really realised that many times I try to come out of a crisis looking good. Yet looking good isn’t the ultimate goal, but rather achieving God’s purpose through the crisis.
2013 has been a year where my faith has been stretched through personal challenges by having a close relative living with a life threatening disease. The care, emotions and financial drain with surgery and another surgery in the pipeline has been a crisis. I confess that I didn’t start by looking at the crisis as an opportunity for God to show Himself and manifest His ability for us to have peace in the midst of storms. But, with time and counsel, I’ve realised that God knew about it long before the crisis hit.
I have often struggled with songs or sermons that seem to project the Christian walk as “above the storms, rather than with Jesus within the storms”. In these times Isaiah 45:3 has kept me going, knowing that there are treasures in the darkness, and that for you to get treasure you must DIG? Are you digging, or have you allowed yourself to be defined by your circumstance or challenges?
The reading in Romans traces Jesus’ family tree, as foretold by the prophets. But what struck me were the words Gift and Urgency in the Message version: Rom 1:5 “Through him we received both the generous gift of his life and the urgent task of passing it on to others who receive it by entering into obedient trust in Jesus.”
Jesus’ birth was a gift to mankind. More than that, His mission of wanting to reconcile all who were labeled “outsiders” to their true potential and God given path was, and I believe remains, URGENT. This same urgency ought to be with us in reconciling persons living with life threatening ailments to themselves, their community and indeed to the faith community. Faith communities have always played a key role in ensuring compassionate care, but in some instances we in the faith communities have also approached the issues or individuals with a judgmental attitude.
To bring the message home, I started by judging my family member as he turned to alcohol for solace. God rebuked me by showing me that, apart from His grace, we do not have solutions that are sustainable and truthful. He also reminded me that His grace is extravagant, yet we hoard it and keep it for those who stay within the “right rules” of our values, beliefs or faith community.
How have you been dealing with the outsiders of your beliefs or your community? Have you extended a hand of extravagant grace, or one that is equal in measure to the Pharisees of old? Have you also, like Jesus, approached the neighbour who continually perpetuates gender based violence in the family with love? Are we bad enough that God is tired of our pious, timid hypocrisies ( Isaiah 7:13-17 The Message version)?
As we celebrate the birth of our Saviour and Lord Jesus may we also use this time to reflect on the attitudes and behaviours we bring to the faith community, that send signals to others that they are not welcome unless they conform to our “rules”. You may even be deemed as a heretic when you want to go against the grain, but no great feat has been achieved in the comfort zone.
In this week, we also honour the memory of Tata Madiba, who said: “The more we lack the courage and the will to act, the more we condemn to death our brothers and sisters, our children and our grandchildren. When the history of our times is written, will we be remembered as the generation that turned our backs in a moment of a global crisis or will it be recorded that we did the right thing?”1
For a start, one can do the right thing begin by choosing to support CABSA, then further engaging through a well thought out training process like the CABSA Churches, Channels of Hope facilitator training and then applying the lessons to your sphere of influence.
Ultimately, there is Urgency for us to spread the Gift of God’s unconditional Love, that is backed with Compassionate Action! But the journey is not for the faint hearted, comfort zone seekers or the cowards! It’s for the bold who have and apply simple faith to deep spiritual issues through waiting, listening and obeying God’s counsel.
1.Nelson Mandela, at 46664 Arctic, in Tromso, Norway (11 June 2004).
Written by: Kiarie Mwenda, Kenya. Churches, Channels of Hope facilitator and training team member