My church recently started a great program called: “Your Church Needs You”. The aim of it is to encourage greater involvement from the congregation. I’m not talking more “doing” here, but rather more sharing. The focus is on sharing our talents and testimonies within services and this week my turn had come around again.
As usual, I left my preparations until the last minute and so I hadn’t given much thought to what I was going to share when I had a phone call from the week’s co-ordinator to ensure I was still right to go. He also mentioned the passage he would be sharing from and the topic of the children’s talk. Now it was the children’s talk that caught my attention. It was to contain a simple demonstration comparing two chicken eggs – one white egg and one black egg, but when cracked, their insides were the same.
Naturally, the co-ordinator thought, given my love for Africa and the time I’ve spent there, that I might want to flow on from the topic to the children. As it had also caught my attention, my thoughts began wandering in that direction. The only problem was that whenever I thought about something to say on the topic, I broke down in to tears.
What leads me to tears? I’ve been spending a lot of time in the history of the DRCongo as I complete research for a biography I am writing on an elderly Congolese man. The best descriptors I can come up with for the emotions this research has elicited in me are: “turmoil” and “overwhelmed”.
Africa has and is often portrayed as the “Dark Continent” and the DRC at its “Heart”. Unfortunately, European and Western input made it darker. When you read of the atrocities committed and being committed there it is hard to keep heart. It is hard to keep hope. When wrestling with they why question, some commentators have come to the conclusion that it must be the hearts of the Congolese people that are dark. This theory only made my heart grieve all the more for what the people there have suffered. And having met many Congolese I can say that their hearts are no darker than yours, or mine.
As I tried to process what I know of the Congo’s history, the hopelessness people feel for that nation, and what the Congolese are suffering still, my thoughts were continually drawn to the first three chapters in the book of Romans. In short: “No one is righteous, not even one”. But right at the end of these chapters we find hope: “by grace we are saved through faith”.
Genesis tells us that all men and women were created in the image of God. For this we all have intrinsic value. But we are also all fallen. Throughout history there have been atrocities committed – by people of all nations, colours, and tribes; by both men and women. Likewise, there have also been those who sought to live righteous lives.
Only faith in Christ brings salvation and, with it, the gift of the Holy Spirit. And what does the Spirit bring? Transformation. The Spirit transforms believers. He works righteousness and holiness within us. He also brings other gifts.
During the Advent season we’ve been lighting a new candle each week – love, hope, peace and joy. As I thought of the transformational power of God’s Word and Spirit, I also thought on these gifts that God gives to us who believe in Him. Australians are ‘blessed’ with a war-free nation, but not all Australians have peace in their heart. And not all those who are happy have joy, yet we can have joy in Christ even in the midst of deepest grief. Similarly, we can live in the midst of turmoil and have hope in a better future, knowing that God is able.
I don’t have any easy answers for the Congo, but I do have hope that God is at work in that nation and amongst its people. I know that both people in Australia and in the Congo are in equal need for Christ’s saving grace, as well as the hope, peace, love and joy that is found in Him.
As Australia Day approaches at the end of January, I do not want to celebrate my blessings as an Australian. Instead, I wish to focus on the blessing of being a child of God. We were all created in the image of God, but only those who accept Christ’s gift have obtained the right to be called Children of God. Truly, we who believe are the ones who are blessed, regardless of any hardship we might be facing.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 43:5)
In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:3-7)