This week my mind has been focused on young Christians, in particular, trying to live out their relationship with Christ in a world, whose value system is for the most part quite, completely opposite to what the Gospel teaches.
Two passages of Scripture came into my mind, both of which set in context the struggle that Christians in general face, but even more young people.
" This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build up houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your sons in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers you too will prosper".
" Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.......
by faith Abel.....by faith Enoch.....by faith Noah....by faith Abraham( and without faith it is impossible to please God, be cause anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him)........All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had an opportunity to return. Instead were longing for a better country. - a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. "
Hebrews 11: 1-16
Most young Christian people can definitely relate to the first passage from Jeremiah. At their stage in life, they dream of romance, marriage, having children, struggling to take care of them with or without Grandma's help and finding a good school for them, getting a solid education, securing a good job, buying a home, having a reliable means of transportation, investing for the future, perhaps even travelling a bit, and also making a useful contribution to the society in which they live. Alas for many young Christians these dreams are often unfulfilled, and even shattered. Broken or challenges within relationships, problems having children, personal and national financial issues, personal and national security issues are all very real, and often huge and intractable problems in and by themselves alone. And which issues are often exacerbated by, and in some cases, the results of non-christian peer pressure to accept pornography as
" light or adult entertainment"; to, engage in fornication - sex before marriage, or adultery - defiling the marriage bed; to accept homosexual behaviour as just another kind of lifestyle; to rationalize one's involvement in gambling - which comes in various forms, and not just the obvious ones like Lotto or Casino, but taking a chance to gain a benefit without engaging in honest labour. To cease going to church, and to worship at home with the television or radio, or worse to begin to experiment with " new truths" and other ways of finding God, outside of a relationship with Christ. It's a dangerous world out there. Hence the reason why some young Christians, and more and more of us the older ones, relate better to the " longing for a better country - a heavenly one". As, in that kind of Christianity we can " ignore" the problems of this life and keep our eyes focused on the " heavenly vision".
The problem with those who would wish to stick with the Jeremiah model, with all its problems, yet many joys, or those who seek an "escape" through the Hebrews " heavenly vision" model, is that God became incarnate. God, in Christ, took on human flesh and experienced the joys and pains and temptations of mankind and remained faithful to the heaven vision - of holiness and purity. But more importantly, in so doing rescued mankind from sin and death on the Cross of Calvary and through the Holy Spirit provided a way for us to be like Christ.
Therefore if we are going to faithful to Christ, we who are in exile in this land and called to,
" pray for the prosperity of this land", filled with many challenges and yet which offers many joys, we too have follow the example set by God in Christ. And then perhaps the problems we face as young or older Christians, and the joys too, may become secondary to the call to, " take up our cross daily and follow Christ". This is the most important issue facing all Christians, regardless of age or circumstance. Am I willing, to not only say like St. Paul, but believe and be obedient to the exultation:
" I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me"
Galatians 2:20 NIV.
No wonder then that the Lord led me to reflect on, and to share this meditation from Christ Tiegen.
AN UNCOMMON MISSION
JULY 29 " As the Father has sent me, I am sending you". John 20:21
IN WORD A cursory reading of this verse might give us an impression that Jesus is saying, " The Father first sent Me; now it's your turn.". But there is more to that verse than that. He is also saying, " In the very same way that the Father sent me, that's how I'm sending you". The crucial question then becomes: How did God send Jesus:
Philippians 2 gives us a good understanding of the nature of Jesus' mission. He humbled himself, He took the form of a servant, and He became obedient to the point of death( Phil 2:6-11). Jesus went from heavenly riches to earthly rags; from exaltation to to humiliation; from authority to obedience; from ultimate significance to ultimate rejection; from comfort to hardship; from safety to danger; from glory to sacrifice; from life to death. And He calls us to go into the world in exactly the same way.
Read that list again. Every one of those humbling transitions goes against our grain. We're trying to work our way up, not empty ourselves. We want more significance, more safety, more authority, more attention, more comfort. But Jesus calls us to die to ourselves, to take up our cross and follow Him. He sends us out as he was sent.
IN DEED Does your attitude match that of Jesus? Do you take your mission seriously enough to go into the depths of this world - whether those depths are in another country, your own city, or even your own family - and live the gospel of humility for others to see? Jesus' mission is to redeem this world and He intends to shine the light in very vile , dark corner of it - through us. He calls His followers into prisons and concentrated camps, into opium dens, and into leper colonies and psychiatric wards. He also calls them into night clubs, corporate conference rooms, university classrooms, and sports arenas. There is no place too uncomfortable, dangerous, or unlikely. Are you willing? As the Father sent Him, so He sends us.
Many will respond in many different ways to this meditation. The only important issue though in the long run, is, in the midst of your joys or trials in this " exile country", as a Christian, " are you where the Lord sent you"?
If not, then the words the first verse of the old hymn might help each one of us to get focused.
O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee:
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow,
May richer, fuller be