Monday, October 10, 2011

Youth and power: Christ and Salvation

This week a young man, Andrew Holness age 39, took the first step to assuming the highest level of political power in my country. We all wish him well. This week also, another young man, age 23, full of promise and one of two sons of a Baptist Minister and his wife, who are both known to me, lost his life in a bizarre and tragic manner. So too did the son of another pastor and his wife, a well known public servant, neither of whom I know, but whose only child died in a bizarre and tragic manner. Then just this afternoon, I heard a most extraordinary interview, hosted by a well known and very impressive host on RJR's PALAV programme, by a popular young DJ, who is famous for his ability to play the right kind of music that party goers love. In the midst of all this excitement and sad news about young people, the lord sent a Word. The context was St. Paul writing to young Timothy who had been put in charge of the church in Ephesus, no doubt a big and demanding job. " Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity". 1 Timothy 4: 12 NIV The Word connects the lives of all of these young men. Alive and dead. Powerful and aspiring to power. Young people in Jamaica and young people in Lagos, in Jo'berg in SA, in Moscow, in New York, in Singapore. And not just young people but all peoples all over the world, as it has to do with ultimate power. In this life and the next. I tell you why. The interview with the young DJ revealed the power that music skillfully and deliberately played, can have over the behaviour of even the most sophisticated persons, and so much more those with less restraint, moving them to do things on a dance floor that they would never have imagined. The DJ even recounted a tragic episode, which was preceded by a graphic description of his ability to carry people to a hyped up edge, with one kind of music, and then "bring them back down" again with another. And how on one occasion when he was prevented by " an over zealous policeman", who ordered him to "cut off the sound", despite his plea to be allowed to " mellow them down", and his prediction that people would die that night unless the police relented, the policeman ignored his pleas, and later that night three university students lost their lives tragically in a motor vehicle crash. Prophetic or sheer coincidence? Multiply this episode several times over, across the world, wherever music or anything else that has the power to affect the behaviour of people, be it illicit drugs, prescribed medication, alcohol, the lust for power, poor self-esteem, depression, the exuberance of youth, testosterone driven behaviour of young males, the power of the gun, or otherwise, and we get an idea of the power that evil has, to use all of these things to wreak havoc in the lives of people created in the image of God. I had a conversation with the very knowledgeable, witty, and quite impressive host of the programme and his very energetic, articulate and bright young guest. And at the end I suggested that the new Prime Minister to be, would have a lot more on his plate than financial and economic issues, as important that those are, but equally so social and moral issues. I had in mind the level of immorality which is pervasive in my country, and manifestly so in the private and public behaviour of our young people, and perhaps so, on account of the kind of music to which they are subjected. He may or may not rise to the occasion, and might take the view that the resolution of such issues properly belong elsewhere. That depends on his spiritual awareness. Because I got the impression from the DJ with whom I spoke, who was having great fun inducing the uptown and others to " bruk out" ( behave in an out of control manner on the dance floor) that the effect that music was having on people, though he appreciated the dangers thereof, did not see it as something for him to correct. The problem for us in the church, who have a specific mandate from God to rescue people from sin and death ( in every way) unto everlasting life, in and through the telling of the gospel of Jesus Christ and his reconciliation of all mankind with God through the Cross of Calvary, is that there is a price to pay. And not many are willing to pay that price. This reminder came to me very vividly as I reflected this week on the words of a well known hymn. " Have thine own Lord! Have thine own way! And especially the words of the the last verse: Have thine own way Lord! Have thine own way! Hold o'er my being absolute sway! Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see Christ only, always, living with me. So moved was I, that I sent out the above words as a text message. As the message this week is very clear. The times are evil, and even the homes of the church leaders are under serious attack, much less so those whose lives have for the most part, been untouched by the gospel message, and therefore under less protection from evil. The young Mr. Holness will need to " think on these things" if he is to make any serious progress in promoting justice, peace and prosperity in my country. So too does the not so young anymore President Obama is he wishes to see America prosper again. The only and main agenda issue for resolution, despite what the tea-party advocates would have him believe, cannot be just the creation of jobs and the avoidance of any new taxes. Perhaps the recent riots in Britain and the scandals surrounding the newspaper magnate Rupert Murdoch has already taught the young David Cameron that he, and the British Society will pay a heavy price if he avoids dealing with these social and moral issues. What the Lord is saying to young people, young leaders in any sphere in life across the world is that fighting evil requires an absolute surrender to the will of God, in any age and at any stage in life. As only the life of Christ born ( again ) in the lives of all people, by the Spirit of the living God, can rescue our children and older folks from the power that evil is exerting in this world. The call then is for purity and not just the kind of political unity that the young Mr Holn has been talking about. The call is for faith and the kind of sacrificial love which Christ demonstrated on the Cross of Calvary. And not just for the kind of understanding of the power of evil by this bright young DJ. The call is for us to set the right example for all to follow. And that example is not something for us to dream up, but to be obedient to - even Christ Himself. I pray God that more and more we in Jamaica, and around the world, will come to fully appreciate the power of the following words. Whether young or old. Powerful or aspiring to power. Grieving or rejoicing Nothing in my hand I bring. Simply to thy cross I cling Naked, look to you for dress Helpless, come to you for grace Foul, I to the fountain fly Wash me Savior, lest I die. And the God who is more willing to forgive, than we are to repent, will rescue us from all that is evil and set us free in and through Christ His One and Only, and Son. Amen