Well, it’s been quite a week! Our community was on national TV on the Holy Switch programme last Sunday night - and lots of us were leftwith really mixed feelings after the show. Quite a few of us feel misrepresented, unfairly treated, frustrated, angry, exhausted, confused - and in some cases all of the above!!
I’m not really going to make much comment on the show itself, or the way it was edited. There is a really interesting conversation on the ABC facebook page and a great interview with Kim which both do a great job of that. They are well worth reading if you haven’t done so yet (and great job those of you who have commented on there already!).
What I do want to do, is reflect a little bit and ask what we can learn through this experience of Holy Switch - of living out our faith in the public sphere and of sharing and explaining what we believe to people who believe very different things? What is Jesus teaching us? And how can we respond?
Being visible Christians can be tough
First up, we can all be really encouraged that we were willing to take part in this in the first place. It takes real courage to be known as a follower of Jesus - it’s not cool or popular, and by doing so we put our faith into action. It would have been easy to hide away during that week, but we didn’t. That is awesome. Each time we stand up and let people know we are followers of Jesus, it is easier to do so again. So well done! And keep at it!!
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17
Show love and respect for others
Secondly, I know for sure that we did an awesome job of showing love, respect and hospitality to Aakash during the week he stayed in Launceston. We gave huge amounts of time, physical and emotional energy to help him enjoy his time with us. As his own comments on the facebook page show, this made a real impression on him. It also made a strong impression on the camera crew who followed Aakash for the week - we know this from conversations with them since the show went to air (they were also pretty unhappy with the editing of the show and felt it was an unfair representation of Aakash’s experience during the week).
As followers of Jesus we are definitely called to show love, respect and hospitality to all people - specifically including people from other nations and ethnic groups. We did well with this during that week - and it made a real impact on Aakash. Let’s recognise this, and keep on looking for ways to show love, respect and hospitality to people from other ethnic groups and religious backgrounds. In Launceston we have plenty of opportunity to do this and lots of us regularly do show love to others in this way.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me... “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’"Matt 25:35-36, 40
Thirdly, there are definitely some lessons to learn here in terms of living our faith out in the public sphere. Lots of us are called to do that more and more into the future - and if we’re clever we will learn some big lessons from this experience.
Media outlets have one agenda which overrides all others - they need to get as many viewers / readers as they can. Their funding streams (government funding / advertising etc) depend on it - they are out of a job if they don’t. We have seen again with the Holy Switch experience that the media never lets the truth get in the way of a good story. If they can twist something and take it out of context in order to serve their own agenda they will.
We need Jesus’ help to be able to speak wisely and live faithfully for him in full view of the rest of society / the media. This includes considering carefully how our words and actions could be twisted and taken out of context. Let’s ask God to give us his wisdom again and again and again as we continue to stand up and be known as followers of Jesus.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Be on your guard;” Matt 10:16-17
Always be prepared...
And last but by no means least - we did do a really good job throughout that whole week at giving answers to tough questions about the hope that we have. The fact that the editor could only find a couple of mumbled, incomplete sentences to back up their story that Christians are judgmental and intolerant shows just how loving, respectful and gentle we were through that week. Again great job!
Most of us at one time or another during that week realised that we could be better prepared to give answers about our faith and hope in Jesus. Let’s make this most of this opportunity to read more widely and chat together about what kinds of questions we might be faced with in our lives, what kind of answers we could give and how we are called to give them. (Here are a couple of great websites to get started with: http://publicchristianity.org/ and http://theocca.org/)
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 1 Peter 3:14-16
But seriously, you guys are awesome. I love being friends with you guys and doing life together.
We have an exciting and growing network and community of people who are passionate about mission and discipleship, and who love showing God’s love to other people.
We’re also creating a culture where we are consistently asking the questions: “What is God saying?” and “How can we respond to what God is saying?”
What has God said to you during the last few days? How are you going to respond?
Write a comment below and let’s be disciples (i.e. learners) who learn as much as we can!