1 Timothy 4:16a (ESV)
Recently at church , we were looking at this passage and considering that Christians so often are no different to others. They forget to keep a high standard of true love and good example.
Our pastor had just had his 30 year school reunion and was relating some chats he had had with old school friends....one was a pagan humanist, as he described himself...he wanted nothing to do with Christianity because of the way in which he had seen Christians behave...
By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Matthew 7:16 ( NIV)
If Christians are not any different than the rest of the bunch then either those who claim to be Christians are not in fact Christians at all- for a public confession, baptism, being good or going to church does not make one a christian etc. Or otherwise this verse should be a wake up call. a call to a lot of soul searching. ( Philipians 2:12b-13 Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.)
It is not just that Christians are expected to be moral and kind. I think we as Christians have the capacity to love in a supernatural way, beyond the call of duty and as I sat there listening to the sermon, I was reminded of the St James massacre that my sister was victim of. And on Monday morning I was sure to tell my children about it. Some had already been told about it before, for others it was a very emotional working through the issues...what makes us different as Christians? How do you love in this manner?
I still cannot tell the story of St James in detail, without having to stop regularly, as I choke up with tears....I was not there but it had the most profound effect on me.
I was shocked today as I looked it up on google...I had never ever seen any photographs of the incident. I found a newspaper article dating back to the actual day and there is no photograph there. I can only guess that the government had restricted photographs from being published. These photographs left me shaken...
Then out of the blue like a lightening bolt , it suddenly occurred to me that my sister Ruth usually went to St James' Sunday night services with my cousin Kevin...I cannot explain the horror of this realisation. It was before the days of cell phones......we had walked to church so rushed home as quickly as we could.....I couldn't phone my mother in case she didn't know anything about it- I didn't want to worry her unnecessary Likewise I couldn't phone my cousin who still stayed with my aunt. I just had to wait, while trying and trying to phone Ruth's number for what seemed like an eternity.....eventually someone phoned us to let us know Ruth was safe....
Perhaps that is why I will always love my sister passionately forever, I am so grateful to have her and despite the distance of seas and continents, I will still always feel close to her. To me God gave us a second chance of being together and I will always be eternally grateful for this. Life is indeed so fragile....as the Bible describes it, "a mist", here today and gone tomorrow. I have lost two close friends to cancer subsequently. Life is full of ups and downs, but never not to be treasured and appreciated! I always try to live with eternity in perspective, I fail dismally, but keep striving to remember. Eternity is in the here and now and not something of the distant future to be trifled with.
This is what I remember of what people told us of what actually happened at St James on the night of the St James Massacre. Forgive me if I remember the facts incorrectly....here is what I recall of the horror incident.
A group of armed men rushed into the church carrying hand grenades and AK47's and attacked the congregation from the front...some initially thought it was a drama/play so reflexes were slow. I believe that Kevin, my cousin, saved Ruth's life by shoving her down under the pews. Around her people were killed. Ruth was teaching at a Christan school at the time...one of her pupils lost her mother. Another couple we know were the first ones out of the church... they had scaled an incredibly high wall behind the church...the first house they went to ignored them , thought they were mad or dangerous or whatever, the next house let them in and alerted the police.
In reading the Google articles I realise now just how bad it was and how much worse it could have been...one man in the congregation had a gun and fired back.....the plan of the attackers was to kill the whole congregation. This man therefore saved many, many lives - my sister's life included. I thank God for him. He has gone on to promote gun ownership in South Africa for self defense.
Those of you who know me well, will know I hate war...all the white boys in our generation went to the army - it messed with their brains as far as I am concerned- you cannot kill and not be effected. At the same time most of our politically correct world forget or have never been aware that the white government in South Africa was anti Communism and anti - terrorism....hello isn't that the same thing America and most of the western world is fighting against????
And yet I have the most incredible empathy for those effected by apartheid, there was never anything right about apartheid, but it started before that with the greedy element of colonialism.....And so this is why I hate war- there are always two sides. Living in a country torn apart by civil war does that to you! You can see two opposing sides fighting for what they believe is right and you can see something right on both sides but the fighting will never make it all right. Just as the violence South Africa still faces will never bring healing.
The incredible thing about the St James attack is the reaction of people who had loved ones killed. The ability to forgive these terrorists in the manner that they have can only be described as a supernatural gift of love- I believe that it is this that makes a Christan stand out as different from anyone else in the world, for this potential can only be found in Christians. ...read more about St James it in the links below.
Of course the next issue that arises is...why don't Christans tap into this opportunity to love..as one of my children said - "but Mom it is so much easier to love like this when you have a real hard life"...it is so hard to love like this when your kid brother deliberately annoys you indeed we are all challanged on the most petty levels.
We all have our excuses - don't we? Love is never a passive thing- it is a choice to take a positive action beyond the norm. It is not the Hollywood, ' falling in love'. It is more about choices and actions , rather than feelings. The amazing thing as a Christan though, is that as you pray and make put into actions your choice to love, those feeling flow from God to the person you chose to love, even when humanly speaking they are most annoying or worse, your enemy.
"Beloved let us love"... for as Christians we are the only ones who have access to such love, love from God himself. Let us not neglect to use this love as we should... with us love should have a different definition.
Keep a close watch on yourself...1 Timothy 4:16a ESV
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves ( in this special way) has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7, NIV , brackets added by me.