It’s 14 years since the September 11 coordinated attacks in the United States that killed nearly 3000 people. These orchestrated terrorist attacks sent shockwaves around the world, and the impact continues to be felt today.
When I travel through airports the security protocol remind me that things are not as they used to be prior to 9/11. In Kenya, I have to be screened using metals detectors even when going to church! Although these procedures make me feel inconvenienced, I've been reflecting on how I should respond as a Christian. I need to remember that although the world has been impacted by a few extremists seeking to do evil, good will always triumph!
I was encouraged by a remarkable tweet that an Imam, a Rabbi and a priest were holding a joint prayer session during the Sydney hostage siege at the end of last year. Rather than live in fear and self-preservation, I can devote my life and energy to doing good, loving others and seeking to share the hope I have in Jesus.
But how can I do this?
Recently, I listened to my minister Jay preach from Luke 6. He made a radical statement: "The thing that defines us as followers of Jesus is whom we are to love. It’s not enough to pray for our enemies, we need to act for their good." Ouch! That hit me hard and those words have not left me since. I have been reflecting on what it means for me to love my enemy or the 'other.’
One of my struggles with loving my enemies is that I do have a heightened sense of justice for those who hurt me or others. But I've been reminded that vengeance is God's, not mine! If I choose to hate, I am not much better than the extremists. Jesus came to love the world, including those who hate us. But what's even more tragic is if I squander my ability to provide hope to the world.
So I have been thinking about the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East & Europe due to Syrian refugees. The New Zealand government has made a decision to up the number of the refugees by taking an extra 600 people fleeing war in Syria. And the Church has responded by committing to welcome those refugees into our communities. But what will I do?
As one who has lived in Kenya and encountered first hand refugees from Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan, I know that hospitality is something that makes a difference to refugees. It’s not enough to ask the government to more if I am not willing to go across the street and meet the 'other' and welcome them for a meal, ask them questions about their family or religion, share with them about life here, etc. My faith needs to be lived out. And it’s in this coal face that I grow and become transformed. So my family have hosted people from different cultures over the last few years and have been blessed greatly in the process.
As Paul says, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6).
What's your experience of loving the ‘other’ in our Kiwi context?
At 9.11pm tonight (0r 11.09pm), and perhaps every night this week, could you ask God to bring an 'other' your way that you can show hospitality and kindness to.
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