For many whose job it is to analyse and comment on social issues, the near anarchy into which my country descended a couple weeks ago, can be explained. But for most of us it's a terrible mystery. How could a country which was once so peaceful, once populated by an industrious, well educated and courteous people, once the envy of many other islands in the Caribbean and the indeed the wider world, descend so rapidly into the madness which took place recently? I took note of the thoughts shared by the Internationally acclaimed and Harvard trained Jamaican sociologist, Professor Orlando Patterson, who, writing an Op-ed piece in the New York Times and reprinted in the Sunday Herald, linked our current state to a stalled economy whilst transitioning from an early democracy to a more mature one. And hence our inability to meet the expectations of our society leading to frustration, anger and violence. I took note of the very thought provoking column written by one of our most respected and extremely well read journalist, Ian Boyne as he carefully articulated the current dilemma which the society faces; continuing the pursuit of the criminals now on the run after Tivoli whilst preserving basic human rights of all citizens. I listened to the many ordinary Jamaicans who are fervently hoping that the authorities would extend the state of emergency to other parishes in order to as they say " cleanse the place of criminals". I read a blog sent from a good and trusted friend, which was written by one of his friends, and who is essentially saying that the present crop of politicians on both sides, are so compromised and mired in old style politics, they cannot lead us to the " promised land". And that more Jamaicans will have to get involved in their communities and in nation building. I took note of members of the diaspora calling for a clear statement on what a
" post dudus" Jamaica will look like.
And then in the middle of all of the above, I was led to spend some time reflecting on a well known song which has comforted many believers over the centuries:
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit!
O what needless pain we bear!
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer........
I almost sent a text to leading government officials , opposition members and journalists, as I wondered how much different my country would have been if as a nation, as leaders, and as ordinary citizens, " we had carried everything to God in prayer". But for some reason I was constrained not to do so. Then as I continued my devotions praising the Lord, I was led to a remarkable and mysterious section of Scripture:
" Therefore remember that formerly you who are called Gentiles by birth and called
" uncircumcised" by those who call themselves " the circumcision: ( that done in the body by the hands of men) -- remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in this world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
For he is himself our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility , by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit".
Ephesians 2:11-18 NIV
I was therefore left with the inescapable conclusion, that every Jamaican, whether from uptown or downtown; whether in Tivoli or from the upscale communities; whether light skinned or dark; whether highly trained or possessing no skills at all; whether powerful and mighty or having no apparent power at all; whether PNP or JLP; whether criminal or law abiding; whether Pentecostal or Traditional; whether Adventists or Roman Catholic- we all have access to the one Father, through the one Spirit because of Jesus. Praise God. Praise God indeed. A great mystery , but if we believe - and I was duly led to reflect on the wonderful chap on faith, Hebrews 11, and the verse ;" And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" - then my country can change for the better, as rapidly as it declined. It is indeed a very comforting thing to know that in Christ, God the Father has created one new man out of those whom He selected as His people, and we who came to believe on His Son through the teachings of the Apostles. So there are no barriers left in this world to overcome. The challenge is to preach the gospel, this good news, that we all have access to the Father through the one Spirit, in a culture that is increasingly hostile to God's Word. For, to many, it is great mystery why some one, and in fact so many should take up lethal weapons and proceed, often unprovoked or with minimal provocation, to murder and maim, often people who they know well. Why someone, who has his pick of the women in his country, should lust after another man's wife, send him into the heat of the battle, and then claim her for his own after the man dies. " You are the man ", as we were told Nathan declared to King David, in a scripture reading today. Why it's has become so common place " before Tivoli" for men to decapitate their victims and parade it in full public view. Why in the early days of our present political era, men in authority gave out guns to poor uneducated youth and which madness is the source, but not the full explanation, of many of our problems today.
The problem is Sin - a deep rooted desire to rebel against a holy God - and how much we therefore owe to God, for His mercy as shown in Jesus Christ. This is the reason why we " bear so much needless pain" in my country. Because far too many persons wielding much authority and power, have decided not to " take everything to God in prayer". Some have been even been accused of dealing in the occult, " obeah" as we call it in Jamaica. While others have sought their own counsel, or the advice of the intellectuals and the power brokers in the society. All because they do not appreciate how much they owe to God for setting them free from Sin in Christ Jesus. Not like the sinful woman in the gospel reading for my church this Sunday - one of my favourite Scripture passages - who was forgiven much that she owed, for she loved much.
" Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is --that she is a sinner.
Jesus answered him, 'Simon I have something to say to tell you.'
'Tell me teacher', he said.
'Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?'
Simon replied, 'I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.'
'You have judged correctly', said Jesus.
Then he turned toward to the woman and said to Simon, ' Do you see this woman? I came into your house and you did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins are forgiven - for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.'
The problem here in Jamaica, with a rich history of Christian witness, is that more and more people believe that they owe God very little, if anything at all. They believe that they survive by their own wits, or by the largess of the " Don" , or through the intervention of the politician. That luck and hard work will see them through. That going to church and reading their Bibles is for old women and children - not for " hot girls", " strong able bodied men " or for men and women with powerful minds and powerful bank accounts. Until " judgement" comes in the face of Tivoli or 9/11 or some other calamity. And all this time Jesus is saying to us all, through the church, through the Word of God, and through circumstances, " I have something to tell you".
The question is , will we listen and live, or ignore Him and decline further into madness. This is then the challenge for the church, to break down the old barriers that separate us from our people and spread the good news that together we have access to the Father through the one Spirit, all because of what Christ did for us on the cross. Then together we will indeed build a new country " post dudus" and in Christ.