This week Thursday was not a good one for my country. We woke to the news that a horrific crash had resulted in the death of three young girls from a prominent high school in central Jamaica, Holmwood Technical. An institution which was still celebrating victory at the Inter-secondary High School Championships for girls and boys, arguably, one of, if not the most competitive in the entire world. Further, that a policeman, in a fit of rage, had shot and killed four members of his wife's family, seriously injured his wife and then killed himself! Then just tonight, it was reported that yet another teenage girl (two others committed suicide recently ) had killed herself. This has, therefore, not been a good week for my country. And unless we can find a reason and remedy for these tragic deaths, the reality is that, unfortunately, more shall follow. Not just here in Jamaica, but in Brazil, in Afghanistan, in Palestine, in the Ivory Coast, and wherever humans live and have their being. So what is to be done?
This week, in response to the deep longing of my heart about the state of my nation, the Lord sent a message about the need for His people, whom He left in the world to be minsters of reconciliation, and to be salt and light in the midst of the pain and grief, to depend on Him totally. But for this to happen we must have a change of attitude towards Him and to all our neighbours.Those we love and especially those who persecute and abuse us. As a major part of the problem in Jamaica is that we have warring factions in our communities, in our families, in the entertainment industry and worse of all, as a series of editorials in the Daily Gleaner has highlighted this week, warring factions and " gangs" in our politics. Thus sending the wrong signals to a whole new generation of youths and fostering a culture of violence, impatience, indifference to the plight of your neighbour, and a vulgar pursuit of pleasure and gain regardless of the constraints of existing moral and social norms and values. And so a nation suffers, and wonders what is to be done. This then is what the Lord said in respect of those who are called by his Name, but it would do well for others to listen and obey.
This is how it started:
My own reflections : You have to need God. And need Him desperately. Otherwise the Christian journey does not lead to maturity, but remains being sustained by " milk", and not solid food. We are all placed in situations where there is a need: for rescue from evil - trials or frank persecution; from the temptations of the lust for worldly things; from the unholy and sinful thoughts that " come out of the hearts of men and women". We only mature if these situations move us to acknowledge our complete helplessness and need for rescue by the Atonement wrought by God in Christ on the Cross of Calvary.
God's Word. " I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better". Ephesians 1:17 NIV
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to your cross I cling.
Naked, come to you for dress;
Helpless, look to you for grace.
Foul, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me Savior, lest I die.
Verse from an old hymn.
Then a call to trust and assurance of comfort:
" I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you". John 14:18 NIV
Then a powerful Word that speaks to our need to rely completely on God and His mighty power that raised Jesus from the dead. And that there is no situation from which we cannot be rescued, especially when we are literally at " our wits end".
" I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead.....". Ephesians 1:18-20. NIV.
" We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we may not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
2 Cor. 1:8-9 NIV
Finally a word about how we should respond to the " misusing of God's grace". ( Words from a hymn :And now O Father, mindful of thy love). Which is what Lent is all about. And more importantly, not about.
" Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done." 2 Cor. 7:10-11 NIV.
And the climax for the salvation of our nation, bleeding literally and metaphorically, on account of rebellion against God.
" Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died" - part of the gospel for today.
Lord, if that policeman, that gunman, that corrupt politician, that outrageous dance hall artiste, that misguided talk show host, that......had turned to Jesus, and relied completely on God, my country would not be in this state.
" You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven....If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Matthew 5:43-46. NIV
Jamaica, and indeed the world, will only be rescued, when we learn to be " imitators of God" and " live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God". ( Eph. 5:1-2 NIV) .
I give myself away, that you can use me. I give myself away.... Words from a contemporary hymn.
As like us, non- believers are desperately in need of God. Thank God for Jesus, by grace, through revelation by God's Word, we know that we need Him every hour.
Pray God, then, that we may share Christ's love with those who don't. Even "the vilest offender". In our home, family, community and nation. Wherever! For God raises the dead. These " dry bones" ( the OT reading for today) can indeed live. Forgive us Lord for we have sinned exceedingly in thought, word and deed. In what we have done and in what we have left undone. We have not loved........ Amen. That is how the message ended.
Finally, an e-mail message sent a to few selected individuals whose ability to influence the state of affairs in my country is not inconsequential. But I would suggest a worthwhile read for all of us, believers and non-believers, who wish to see meaniful change in our country.
"When you were slaves to sin, you were set free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result in eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:20-23 NIV
The reality is that all human beings are faced with the above mentioned choice, and will reap the benefits or consequences. What a great benefit would redound to the people of Jamaica were more of us minded to make the right choice! For it is the choices that we have made as a nation which are coming to haunt us now. In our homes. On the roads. Over the airwaves. And in our parliament.
Question is, are we ashamed, and willing to declare and show godly sorrow which leads to repentance and peace? Or are we just concerned, and not really desperately in need of an Almighty God who can do abundantly more than we can ask or imagine. God responds to one - the humble - with grace, but opposes the other - the proud. Good Friday will be celebrated next week. It's a good time for making choices. Amen