Monday, March 26, 2007

Ministry of the Kingdom

Every weekend, Clement (C) and David (D) would meet up with several Burmese people, who are in Malaysia to find a living. Sometimes, C and D would bring them out for a meal, a movie, or window shopping. C and D never had any hidden agenda - no intention of preaching the gospel in its propositional form, no intention of bringing them to church, no intention of setting up an infrastructure for a 'proper' Burmese 'ministry in the church etc. Each time C and D goes out with the Burmese people, each shares his own story, happenings and struggles with the rest. They talk, they joke, they laugh. Eventually, the Burmese people no longer see C and D as merely Christians, but as their...friends.

Sometimes the Burmese people would take the initiative to call C or D to chat with them, or even invite them over for a self-prepared meal. Nevertheless, there was no statistics of converts to show, and the church leaders often wondered whether the resources spent by C and D on them were justifiable. Sadly, the wonderful things that happened: beautiful friendships being forged, life stories being intertwined, lives being touched by the love of C and D, were things that could not be put on paper or be seen in a visible way. Expectedly, the church was never fully supportive of the 'ministry' of C and D.

Every weekend, Samuel (S) and Alex (A), who are from the same church as C and D, would meet up with several Pakistanis who are also in Malaysia to find a living. For the first few times, S and A brought them out for meals. After getting to know them better, S and A invited them to church, telling them that they themselves are offering guitar and English lessons in the church, hoping that the Pakistanis would be attracted by these bonuses to come to church. The Pakistanis were overjoyed and started to attend the lessons in the church. After each lesson, S and A would grab the opportunity to preach the gospel to them, encouraging them and sometimes persuading them to become Christians.

Eventually, after much persuasion, the Pakistanis became Christians, but for various reasons. Some hoped that they will receive even better treatment if they become Christians. Some felt obliged to agree since they have already accepted benefits (in the form of the lessons) from these Christians. S and A were overjoyed as well, and announced it over the pulpit the following week of the good news, and the whole church was pleased with their result.

S and A continued to take care of these new Christians, fetching them to church every weekend without fail, teaching them English and guitar and nurturing them through discipleship classes. Yet, strangely, their relationship with S and A never developed beyond superficiality. The only occasions that the Pakistanis would contact S or A was when they were in need of something. They would never call S or A for a casual conversation or invite them over for a meal. Even though beautiful friendships were never forged, life stories were never intertwined, lives were never touched; yet, the church continued to be pleased and supportive of their ministry because of the statistics and results that S and A could show the church.

Most Christians remain in the kingdom of God and call out to people from the kingdom of the world to cross the line to join them. Only a few are willing to cross the line into the kingdom of the world and bring the kingdom of God to the people there.

Ministry of the Kingdom, which one?


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Foolish Love

Dear Master,

I have thought it over for quite some time. I find your love foolish. Why do you want to love me so deeply? Do you not know that your deep love for me places you in a lowly and vulnerable position? Do you not know that if you love me so deeply, you are bound to be hurt by me so deeply as well each time I turn my back against you and reject you? Why do you not choose to keep a safe distance from me and love me conditionally, loving me to the extent that I love you, lest you get hurt unnecessarily?

Do you know that because of your foolish love, I am bound to be a foolish lover as well? Do you know how painful it is for me to place myself in a vulnerable position, willingly to be susceptible to hurt and rejection by people that I am committed to love? Do you know how it feels when they turn their back against me and reject me?

How I wish I could choose the other path, keeping a safe distance from everyone else so that I can protect myself from being hurt so badly. How I wish I could love others, in a casual, conditional and convenient way, so that I can still be seen as a loving Christian and yet not having to endure the threat of being hurt.

Master, can you stop being foolish, that I might stop being foolish as well?

Yours foolishly,
A foolish follower


Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Disciple's Journal (2)


After a long day of imparting lessons to the large crowds who were sitting at the mountainside, Jesus was very exhausted and decided to come down from the mountainside. Yet, the crowds were not satisfied and wanted more from him. They followed him in hope that he will stop somewhere to impart more lessons to them. Just as the people were moving down from the mountainside, a man in ragged clothes appeared right in front of Jesus and knelt before him saying, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean."

The disciples, who were nearest to Jesus, noticed the sores on the man's body and knew immediately that he was a leper. Quickly but secretly, they moved a few steps back in order to keep a safe distance from the leper. At this moment, the disciples were anticipating Jesus' response towards this leper. "Surely our Lord is not going to touch him, he should know better that leprosy is contagious," thought one of the disciples. Many other disciples were hoping that Jesus would drive him away, for his presence posed a threat to their health.

To their astonishment, Jesus took a few steps towards the leper. At this moment, the disciples became very anxious and was anticipating the worst. "Goodness, does our master know what he is doing? He is here to save us and establish our kingdom, what will happen to us if he is affected by the germs?" thought a disciple, who nevertheless was not bold enough to shout out his thought. At that moment, Jesus touched the man and said with compassion, "I am willing, be clean!" Immediately, the man was healed of his leprosy...

If we were there with Jesus, being one of the twelve disciples, what would be going through our mind at that point? What would be our response? More than often, we will choose to observe from a safe distance lest we get infected. We can preach, we can pray, we can even donate money to people such as these, but the ultimate challenge is this: Are we willing to go to them and live among them. It is neither the money nor the prayer that matters the most to them, it is our presence, our company that truly matters. For it is through us that they may have the opportunity to see Christ and his love in a visible form.

Today, I received a news that my Pakistani friend (who is staying in Port Dickson, Malaysia) has been suffering from chicken pox for more than 1 week. I decided to give him a call and told him that I was coming to visit him. Yet, in my heart, I was worrying for myself. Many thoughts came to my mind: "What if I get infected by the germs (since I have not caught this disease before)?", "If he wants to shake my hand, how am I going to say "no" in a polite way?", "If I get infected, how am I going to finish my assignments?"etc.

In spite of the struggle I was going through, I knew that opportunities such as these are hard to come by, for they are placed by God in our lives to challenge and refine the depth of our love for others. Perhaps we have been singing and claiming carelessly to God of how much we love him and our fellow human beings; for when the true test comes, we often retreat.

Furthermore, I thought about what Jesus would have done if he was in my situation. Surely he would care less for himself and would have gone to visit and pray for this friend in spite of the risk involved. With Jesus in mind, I chose not to let my worries overwhelmed me and I went. I prayed for him, talked to him and he (accidentally) touched me as well. But in my mind, I knew that I have done the right thing, for my Lord would have done the same thing if he was me. Even if I will eventually catch chicken pox after this visit, I will not regret of my decision.

After all, to be like Christ is to take risk, isn't it?