A couple of weeks have passed since I went to church with Lucy. In the weeks since, I have unfortunately been unable to attend church, but next week I will be home, in Gweru: and against the reputation I have managed to earn myself, I intend to be early. As I go back to youth group, I want to learn to withhold nothing and to give everything; to fully commit myself each day to service in the body of Christ. And the reasoning behind this is why there is need for part 2.
In the wine-press that is life; the beautiful and the ugly, the agony and the ecstasy there lies a fundamental truth that I fear we have missed. When we see the beautiful and innocent brown eyes of a less privileged child look at us; unconscious maybe of the lack in their lives and unaware that there is more to life even for them than ferrying water to and from the water well, herding livestock and the hard labour of subsistence farming; is it merely pity that floods our heart?
A pity that can only be born from a feeling that life should not be like that but incapable of doing much beyond a guilty donation or work of service once every so often? When a story of domestic abuse is narrated to you; by either the spouse or the children, is it only pity that brings tears to your eyes as you wish the story never happened, and as you frantically look for words and prayers to offer some form of comfort and solace; or do you realize that in your hands, is the capacity to shape a culture?
As I took in my surroundings–the dusty roads, houses with no lawns, and the proliferating use of galvanized iron for construction, and as I was lifting my hands to worship I saw again a glimpse of what the church is called to be. I saw the church of God extending her hands not only to feed the poor, but to teach them to feed others; I saw the church not only being a place where the broken heart can cry for healing; but where the seeds to heal a society are sown in to the world. I saw the church be a place of no spectators; but called out love-warriors, unconcerned with either reputation or tradition but completely devoted to seeking out and saving the lost. An army ready to go into what we call the worst places; to live there, to love people where they are, to offer not judgement for sin, but to proclaim the blood of Jesus which is salvation from sin.
It is difficult for me to fully put into words and fitting imagery, for I do not think I have the right language for the sheer beauty and trans-formative power of it. But if I were to make a bold statement; I would say there is not a single organisation on earth, religious, economic, business or charity, that has the same power to transform lives that the church has. We may have been asleep to it, and the ridicule of the world may have jaded our capacity to put our trust in God, but is is a truth that will endure and that must be preached.
No organisation can transform every aspect of a person’s life, from their economic status, to their emotional and mental state of well being, to the quality of their relationships and in bringing a clarity of purpose like the church is called to do so. She is in the words of Paul the very Bride of Christ, upon whom His glory rests and who in a very literal sense is called to be that Proverbs 31 woman. To be successful in all she puts her hands to; to set out for her work vigorously, opening her hand to the poor and needy; (in soul and in spirit), and bringing them close to her heart where they can know of the father.
It is with this vision I have of the church, and the awareness I have of the need around me that I call this an inconvenient truth. Because we have made it easy for ourselves to live unaware of the need around us; we compete with each other for status, and fancy new adult toys like cars, houses and clothes, and we forget that just beyond the city gate, Lazarus is hungry and begging us for a morsel of bread.
Our focus is drawn away from where our purpose; and we do not understand why we are unhappy or unfulfilled with life. For all our solutions, we look to the government when really a government is at best, merely a reflection of the calibre of citizens in a nation, for better or for worse. In doing so, we abandon our God given role as world changers; hoping someone else will do it but not realising that it is only by us that the most comprehensive job can be done. God is not beyond giving someone else the talent and the capacity to bring change; he loves humanity too much to be ransomed by individuals; but that will not change the purpose and the call He has placed on us.
Let us therefore as the church rise up; let us let our light shine and make this world a better place. Go for your dreams; love fiercely; take the risk with the unlovely and fight for them. The word makes a promise “Kings shall come to the rising of your light (Isaiah 60 vs 3),” and I firmly believe that the world will learn a lot from the church on how to tackle social issues. But only if we dare to rise; if we dare to be like Jesus, like Paul, Peter, Aquila, Priscilla, Dorothy and many others. You and I are called to be more than spectators on a Sunday, we have a role that urgently needs to be fulfilled.