We live in a world of chaos and disorder. The world has become quite complicated. The present global pandemic hasn’t helped in this regard. This becomes a challenge when we live a simple faith in a complicated world. The public ministry of Jesus Christ was simple, and so was the gospel message. But as Christians, when we live in a complicated world, we are challenged to redefine our own Christian identity in relation to the world, and are propelled to change our strategy of witness to a more pragmatic, yet effective one. “Therefore, we are ambassadors of Christ, God making His appeal through us…” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Our presence in this world should reflect our relationship with the Lord. In this article, I hope to address some of the challenges we face living as Christ’s witness, and propose different approaches which will enhance our attitude towards the Christian responsibility of representing Christ, as His witnesses in this world.
Darkness to Light – Chaos to Order
In the book of Genesis, we can see the earth being a formless void and full of darkness. God, through creation, created light so that it can be separated from darkness and move into an order, rather than chaos. Light brings clarity and enables things to be in order. Jesus Christ is the light. Therefore, if the light is in us, we will be inspired to live accordance to His will. “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. (2 Cor 4:6) If we truly have the light though Christ, we will be His true ambassadors. We can light the world only when we have the light. Let the light of Christ we bring to the world bring order and simplicity in the midst of chaos and complications. Let our light be a guide for others to be a part of God’s plan of salvation.
Organizing our Faith through Doctrinal Foundation
Being ambassadors of Christ, representing Him to the world requires that we have a genuine relationship with Him. Living a life in Christ requires commitment, which in turn involves suffering, service, and sacrifice. This is the mark of true discipleship (Matthew 16:24). In order to do that, we should also be strong in our faith. This comes from our relationship with the Lord, through our spiritual work which includes: worship, prayers, fellowship, and bible study. We need to preserve the orthodoxy (true doctrine) of the church. Today, there are heresies that are coming up in popular Christianity, which are destroying the very fabric of Christian faith. It is important to take time and study the various doctrines of the church, which help us to organize our faith and to be able to genuinely communicate the gospel, without tainting it. “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” (I Tim 4:16).
Having a logical and coherent understanding of our faith gives us more clarity in our relationship with the Lord, and enables us to proclaim the message of the gospel clearly and boldly. This was the focus of the reformation of the Malankara Church. Abraham Malpan & Kaithayil Geevarghese Malpan, along with other reformers were focused on the centrality of Christ and the word in the faith, heritage, and traditions of the church, especially during a time where superstitions and other unbiblical practices were slowly getting inculcated into the very nature of the church. Several of the ministries of our church give special emphasis on doctrinal awareness, which helps us to live out a true faith through Christian maturity. This will also enable us to defend the faith.
Slowing down…to the pace of God
Observing the history of salvation in the lives of His people, we can see that God moved at His own pace. There are two Greek words for time which are used in the bible. Kairos refers to opportune or God’s time. Chronos refers to sequential or human time. When we look at the speed of human beings, it is much faster than the way God’s works. Kosuke Koyama, a famous Japanese theologian, once wrote a book Three Mile an Hour God, where he attributes this concept to God’s love. A look at when the Israelites were liberated from slavery in Egypt: a journey which should have taken around 10 days took a total of 40 years. The time gap was meant for spiritual growth and enabling the Israelites to return to God. In the same way, in a world where we focus on the human time, it is important we align ourselves with God’s time.
This becomes difficult when we expect answers in our own time. This is a challenge especially when we live in a society where we have instant gratification or immediate results. We need to allow God to work in accordance with His will in His time. That will also enable us to grow, just like the Israelites. In order for us to be true ambassadors, we need to tune ourselves to the divine voice, and that comes through patience and trust in the work of God.
Meditation vs. Noise
One of the beautiful aspects of being an Eastern spirituality is that it draws great strength from regular meditation and prayer. Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth!” James 4:8a says: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” Our relationship with the Lord is strengthened when we invest more time through prayer, meditation, worship, sacraments, bible study, and witness. Prayer and meditation is something we take for granted as Christians. We hear a lot of noise (including distractions & obstacles), which can distract us from living a proper Christian life. As the living reminders of Christ to this world, we need to draw our spiritual power from God Almighty. That can only be done when we spend quality time with Him. Without that, how can be pursue God’s agenda in this world?
Re-alignment & Moving beyond the ‘Comfort Zone’
As Christians, we can be easily distracted, and may have obstacles which prevent us from effectively engaging in Christian work. Fear, anxiety, lack of confidence, concerned about our reputation, response of others, or we may lack motivation. These are possible, but we need to move beyond the comfort zone. Living within our spiritual comfort zone will not enable us to be fruitful.
Tim Tebow is an American football player who has played for the Denver Broncos, New York Jets, and briefly with the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles. He is well known for his support for mission, and for preaching the gospel even through sports. When he got traded from Denver to New York, he responded by saying: “Kind of got traded. I’m on another team – excited to be a Jet…Regardless of what happens, I still honor my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, because at the end of the day, that’s what’s important, win or lose. … We need to get back to one nation under God, and be role models for kids.” This was something he said to the general public. It is possible to share. We can only do so when we are confident in and bold about our faith. Our witness and mission is incarnational (John 1:14). Christ was the word, which became flesh. We also need to make the word audible to the world.
We need to have a burden for sharing the gospel. As a follower of Christ, if we don’t share the gospel with others, who will? We can make many excuses for not engaging with the gospel, however, we must understand that each of us are accountable to the Lord, being a called out community. Our faith should be driven by our convictions, not by our convenience.
Living as the disciples of Christ involves our full commitment. This is a challenge when we live in a world where the accepted values or norms may be in contradiction to our faith. We need to continue the pursuit of God’s will through our life. The best way is to serve the Lord is through our words and deeds. We need to continuously ask ourselves: “What can I do for the Lord?” St. Francis of Assist once said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” Our lifestyle, our words, and our approach to life reflect our attitude towards the Lord. The world continues to observe the life and work of Christians. What is our message to the world?
The Mar Thoma Church is a mission church. We are Lighted to Lighten. What is our impact on the society? Is it a positive and creative response to the salvation plan of God and the call and commission of Christ Jesus? Remember that church is not only identified by its physical structure, but also the identity and biblical engagement of its members. Let us grow in our spiritual life, and paint a proper picture of Christ, which gives honor to His ministry and plan of salvation.