One perspective that causes us to think is that God is actively working in all parts of the world. For many it seems irreconcilable that God is working in some parts of the world – it is sinful and ungodly is our judgment – but this fails to understand that God is everywhere in the world and loves all people just as He loves us. He is not absent from places that seem to be filled with darkness. Didn’t David say (Ps 139:7-12) there was nowhere to go to escape God’s presence? Sure we as Christians bear the light of God and so it is important to take it to others, to present the truth of God and to understand that people need to be conformed to a new lifestyle and allegiance and enter into a committed relationship with the living God but we should never stop believing that God is active in our world in our country; in our city; in our streets; in our schools; in our neighbourhoods and in our homes. It is God who changes hearts and lives not human beings! He loves every single person, even we find it difficult or impossible!
One story I heard told recently illustrates the point of how God was evident in a strongly Islamic city. Someone surveying the city and actively looking for the evidence that God was there and doing something initially reached the conclusion – all I see is mosques and devoted people but no evidence of any active movement by the living God. The judgment was that God was absent. Until the realisation came that time after time – revealed in conversations struck up with those coming from the mosques – many people in the midst of their prayers were seeing a vision of Jesus the Messiah. What it raised in these devout people were questions about Jesus and a searching to know answers – God was drawing attention to himself … at work in this supposedly God-forsaken place.
Are we attentive to what God is doing in our neighbourhood? Or in those people we come into contact with? Or do we simply see all the barriers and the hardness of heart. If we stop to listen to what God might say to us and ask God to reveal himself in these ‘forbidden’ areas we might be surprised at just how active God is in our community. So do you want to get involved in doing something effective for God? Listen for his Spirit, seek his guidance, and pray that you might have eyes to see and ears to hear!
Maybe the point at which the challenge hits home is in our personal connection with those who need to meet Jesus. It may be more comfortable and less inconvenient for us personally to leave the task to others but God’s expectation seems to be that we all get involved according to God’s gifting in our lives. We all bear the light of Jesus and generate a testimony of the effectiveness of God to change lives. How many of us disqualify ourselves by staying in the corner or remaining in the safety of our comfort zone when God really wants to use us? Oh how he wants to reshape our thinking and break down the barriers within our lives. Oh how he wants to delight in using us to show others how God makes a difference. Oh how he wants our lives to provoke others to ask questions because we are different and things operate in ways they see and even like but don’t have.
One mission group I’m aware of requires their missionaries to be involved in a local “community of practice.” A community of practice is something that will meet whether you are there or not…like a book club or a gym class or a craft group or a local community gardening group. It might even be a politically active group but it is a place where you belong without determining the agenda. It is in these places then that you rub shoulders with those of different ways of thinking and varied life experience. In the making of relationships and forming connections you allow others to see who you are and what you act like. We might say we have busy lives and therefore don’t have time to spare to be involved in these ventures. But when we set as an important choice to intentionally form relationships with the purpose of being God’s light and salt we shift the focus to God’s goals. This takes the focus off the reasons why we cannot do something that gives God an important avenue for kingdom expansion. What stops us from venturing into new things are well entrenched ‘ruts’ that to some degree are safe but at the same time can irritate us. We could stay with the ‘devil we know’ rather than step out in faith for God. We make excuses as to why we can’t do it rather than find ways to make it happen. The great testimonies of God’s faithfulness come from stepping out in faith not from staying in the safe place! If we can see the importance of connection to those we are seeking to introduce to God then we’ll actually find the ways to make it happen. Otherwise it looks as if we don’t care.