What is the key to successful Christian living?
How effectively do we communicate God’s love and who are doing the real business?
There’s something else that we can learn from these Jewish sages and that is the true meaning of joy. The disciples certainly demonstrated it:
And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:52)
No language has more words for joy than Hebrew. The sages declared that joy is called by ten names. Nearly every book in the Old Testament reminds us to rejoice in the Lord, especially the Psalms.
God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. (Psalm 47:5-6)
We Christians, who have far more reasons to know deep joy than anyone, should take note of such things.
At least folk should be able to see how different we are by the way we treat fellow Christians. After all, didn’t Jesus say:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)
How often do we hear people say, look at those Christians, they may not have much time for us but see how they love each other? I’m not saying that we don’t have love for each other, but it’s just that we are not known for this fact. It ought to be our mark, our badge and it may have been so in the early Church, but not so much now.
Of course there are exceptions. I can think of many of them, thank goodness, but I have also met many Christians who fit society’s bleak stereotypes. We are told to be radiant and loving towards each other, but this is not how society perceives us.
I have an enormous admiration for our current Queen Elizabeth, arguably the only authentic Christian voice currently taken seriously in our country. On opening the 2010 Church of England General Synod, she said “What matters is holding firmly to the need to communicate the Gospel with joy and conviction in our society.” It’s a shame that the media would not report on that snippet but would rather report on other matters that concerned the Anglicans at this particular gathering.
So what did concern them? The big issues were homosexuality among the clergy and women bishops and how the Church of England can keep promoters and dissenters happy without causing a major split. And you wonder why we Christians are lampooned, ridiculed and cast into the dustbin of history as an irrelevance. If the only message the World receives from the “Church” concerns its internal battles and very public falls from grace, how could they come to any other conclusion?
We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
Ambassadors? An ambassador’s job is to represent his country and people in the most favourable light possible. Who are the true ambassadors for God in our World? I suggest that it is not the usual suspects, the salaried ‘men of the cloth’, with their grand titles and their ecclesiastical pensions to look forward to. Men in frocks and dog collars don’t do it for me, I’m afraid. No, God’s ambassadors are those who take seriously their accountability to God to be a true, living and real witness in a World that has absolutely no idea how much it needs it. Real people, Christians like you and me, who have every chance of making a positive impact on the World.
Some have already broken through. Witness these stories.
- Margaret Mizen had lost her 16 year old son just two days earlier to a moment of unprovoked madness by a young thug at a bakery. Yet here she was, on the UK media. "I just want to say to the parents of this other boy, I want to say I feel so, so sorry for them. I don't feel anger, I feel sorry for the parents. We've got such lovely memories of Jimmy and they will have such sorrow about their son. I feel for them, I really do." Margaret and her husband have spoken openly how their faith has helped them through this tragedy and their simple dignity has demonstrated this so clearly to the nation in subsequent years. They have since set up the Jimmy Mizen Foundation (www.jimmymizen.org) to help young people to live responsible lives.
- She was the scourge of the “permissive society” of the 1960s and 1970s, but Mary Whitehouse was just an ordinary art teacher from Shropshire. Targeting the BBC, she campaigned relentlessly and seemingly single-handed to ‘clean up TV’, imploring it to “encourage and sustain faith in God and bring Him back to the hearts of our family and national life”. So her Christian faith was upfront and the clear inspiration for her efforts. Out of these efforts came the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association, now known as Mediawatch – UK (www.mediawatchuk.org.uk), though it seems, like many erstwhile Christian charities, to have wrenched itself free from its Christian roots.
- It was at the height of the Irish troubles and one of the worst atrocities was the bombing at the Remembrance Day service in Enniskillen. Just a few hours afterwards, Gordon Wilson, the father of one of the 10 killed that day, publicly forgave the bombers on the BBC and asked that no-one would seek revenge for his daughter’s death. A historian later remarked, “No words in more than twenty five years of violence in Northern Ireland had such an emotional impact”. Until his death in 1995 Gordon worked tirelessly and effectively for peace in that troubled land. His legacy is the Spirit of Enniskillen Trust (www.soetrust.co.uk), working with young people for a shared future.
- Rachel Scott was the first student gunned down by the teenage killers in the school shooting in April 1999, later known as the Columbine tragedy. Rachel was a committed Christian and it was this that singled her out for what was later called a martyrdom. Her funeral was the most watched event on the CNN TV channel up to that point and her life was the inspiration behind an initiative, Rachel’s Challenge (www.rachelschallenge.org), to promote a positive culture change in schools and businesses.
Yes, these are exceptional stories, but they all feature ordinary Christians who have sprinkled a touch of the grace of God into the World. They have not made declarations from the pulpit or the TV studio, but have demonstrated by their actions, their faith and good conduct that there really is something special about those folk who have the Holy Spirit living in their hearts.
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You can reach Steve with any comments or questions at the Saltshakers Web Community website.