June 9, 2011

Life in a changing world

 
Over a period of time, everything changes in our physical and social environment.  We say, "times have changed" to indicate the differences between the present and the bygone days.  Sociologists and psychologists talk about "generation gap" in explaining the difficulties parents have with their children where neither can understand the other.  We are born, we grow and go on to be the individuals that we can until death greets each of us at the door.  Change continues unabated in this world whether we live or die.  Families change, relationships change, occupations change, social networks change and religious convictions and worldviews change too.  Even the geography changes; nations change their borders, rivers change their course, landslides change the shape of the mountains, lakes dry, creeks disappear and so on.  Some of these changes are manmade but others are not; man-made changes rather permanently destroy the ecology and environment (deforestation being the primary cause of the landslides and drying of rivers, lakes and creeks) whereas the nature has its own way of restoring or adapting to the changes it has brought upon itself.  Whichever way change comes, it is certain that change is a permanent process in this world and no one can stand against it; it will take everything on its way along with it.   
            The Bible says "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth", implying that what he created in the beginning has also an end and thus in the New Testament we see people longing for the new heaven and new earth because the world "in its present form is passing away" (1Cor.7:31).  Not just the material world that is passing away; the NT also talks about a world that is immaterial and this too will pass away and therefore gives following admonition;
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever (1John 2:15-17).
            Less than a year ago Christopher Hitchens was a robust and a handsome looking man who even reaching 60 looked as if in his mid-forties.  His physical look matched to his intellectual ability to tear down opposing arguments and destroy the faith of the simple minded believers in any form of god or divine. The last book he published as his memoir (Hitch 22) was selling like hot cakes and in his own words, Christopher was in for the glory days ahead of him; he was now ready to ride the tidal wave of fame and popularity that he had worked for so hard until then. Unfortunately for Christopher, his glorious world came crumbling down too soon while he was on a book signing tour last summer; the cruelty of cancer was so harsh, and even for a man of strength like Hitchens had to pause and think.  As the emergency crew came to take him to hospital, Christopher in his typical linguistic beauty puts like this;
They arrived with great dispatch and behaved with immense courtesy and professionalism. I had the time to wonder why they needed so many boots and helmets and so much heavy backup equipment, but now that I view the scene in retrospect I see it as a very gentle and firm deportation, taking me from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady. Within a few hours, having had to do quite a lot of emergency work on my heart and my lungs, the physicians at this sad border post had shown me a few other postcards from the interior and told me that my immediate next stop would have to be with an oncologist. Some kind of shadow was throwing itself across the negatives. (Vanity Fair, September 2010).  
            Christopher has crossed the border from the land of the well into the land of the maladies and sadly even lost his voice to speak; what a change has come in his life.  As a devout Atheist, he continues to fight for every precious moment he can have in this world and I wish him many more.
            But over half a century ago in the Netherlands, there was a young 15 years old girl by the name of Annie Frank.  Her parents gave her a diary for her 13th birthday and began her entries in it.  Soon thereafter, the whole Frank family along with few other friends went into hiding from the Nazi's purge of the Jews.  After spending two years in hiding, Annie completing her 15th birthday, and two days after her last entry in that diary, the hiding place was raided.  Everyone was sent to various concentration camps, everyone perished in a short span of time except Annie's father.  When the war ended; Annie's Father visited the place where they had hid themselves; got his daughter's diary and later published it; Dairy of Annie Frank has since become a household name in much of the western world.
            The interesting thing about Annie is that even in her young age she was able to look beyond her age and environment; she saw the changing nature of life and everything in this world; including suffering.  On July 11, 1944 she wrote,
In the eyes of the world, we’re doomed, but if after all this suffering, there are still Jews left, the Jewish people will be held up as an example.  Who knows, maybe our religion will teach the world and all the people in it about goodness, and that’s the reason, the only reason we have had to suffer. We can never be just Dutch, or just English, or whatever, we will always be Jews as well. And we’ll have to keep on being Jews, but then, we’ll want to be. God has never deserted our people. Through the ages Jews have had to suffer, but through the ages they’ve gone on living, and the centuries of  suffering have only made them stronger. (Dairy of Annie Frank
            While hearing about millions of Jews being gassed across Nazi occupied Europe; Annie looks beyond the sad post of suffering to a land of goodness and God; a land where evil shall be conquered by good, where weakness shall turned into strength; a land where there is no shadow coming over the negatives but light wiping away every trace of darkness and fear.  What a contrast between Christopher and Annie's world!  Christopher fights for a world that is passing away but Annie looks to a world that will never pass away.  The world and its passions will pass away said apostle John; "The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever" (1John 2:17). 
            Unfortunately, most of us who claim to be living for the world to come are often pre-occupied with the things of this world.  Whether we are from an affluent nation or an impoverished one makes no difference when it comes to the things of this world; the passions that attempt to imprison us in this world are the same everywhere and for everyone regardless of one's position in life.  Lust, greed and pride continue to create havoc in many Christians' life and particularly in Christian leaders' life. We hear of news such as a mega church pastor in the US having secret homosexual partners; a mega church pastor in Korea sexually exploiting secretaries in the church offices.  We hear of MBB (Muslim background believers) faking their persecution so that they could gain sympathy and dollars for a better life.  We hear of missionaries writing fake reports of what they are doing in the mission fields so that the flow of finances continues for their royal life-style in some third-world nations.  We hear of third world pastors and Christian leaders selling their churches, orphanages and ministries to highest bidder from the affluent nation even if it is a false teaching like Jehova's Witness, Mormons, Manmins, or anyone.  Lust, pride and money become the objects of worship for such leaders and they can change their vision, calling and doctrine depending on the monetary and the sensual pleasure of this world.  The things of this world continue to win the affections of many of us and we don't want to think about the kingdom of God.  For this case, we are worse than Christopher Hitchens; in fact Hitchens deserves better respect because he is not a hypocrite like us.  He claims that this world is all that he has got whereas we claim that we live for the world to come; but in reality we find it hard to detach from the things of this world and continue to crave for them; we cheat, lie and quarrel for them.  We have witnessed how these Televangelists have deceived the innocent folks; we have seen how pastors in third world nations have built palaces for themselves by the money that was given for the reported mission work; we have seen how a pastor's desire to make his name great has gone on to suck life out of his church members by constantly asking them to pay for his mega-building projects. 
            It appears that such a mindset of Christians and their leaders has forgotten the changing nature of this world.  They have fooled themselves by believing that this world will last forever and therefore, having an affair, buying a private jet or an expensive car with the money received by fooling the believers, building a beautiful house with the mission money perfectly makes sense to them.  Sadly their sense of pleasure and security will also come to a place where everything will be changed; like Solomon they will say that it was all in vain and what is more terrifying is that Christ is going to ask for an account of what we did with what was given to us while here on earth.  But long before we get to that place where we meet Christ, the price of such a life has to be paid here and now; we have seen how their lust, pride and greed cost them everything right here on earth.
            Unless we live with one eye in eternity, we will all be tempted to do what we have described above; if we focus on the things of this world with both the eyes, we will make wrong choices and miss the view of heaven; one way or the other this changing world will get to us.  Therefore, like the author of Hebrews said, let us focus on Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith.  Like Annie Frank's conviction of goodness; lets make our ambition to live as an examples of good instead of greed, lust and pride; let us live for the world to come in this world and beyond.
(Pastor Bhojraj Bhatta June 8, 2011)

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