Thoughts : Progressive Christianity (Poverty) : Above All…

Was listening to a song on a Michael W. Smith CD that my sister recently bought – the song “Above All.”

I had heard this song before and even sung it before in Church and really loved the music and also the lyrics. It’s a song that focuses on the Cross and God’s great love for humankind that He went to the cross and died there – all for us. Anyone who knows me knows that I love songs about the cross. Why? Because any song that mentions the cross and Christ’s death lays down so clearly one compelling reason to worship God. He died on the cross for his enemies – can there be any greater sacrifice? No! And any song that focuses on such a thought cannot fail to move one to worship Him.

When I hear of the cross, how can I not be moved to live for him? How can I not be “humbled by your mercy and broken inside” as the lyrics from Matt Redman’s beautiful song “Once Again” go? How can my heart not be filled with gratitude to God for all He’s done for me?

I played the song many times today and each time I was filled with such great gratitude. Many times I was just brought to my knees and lifted up my hands. Many times, my heart cried – if there weren’t truly tears in my eyes.

And I related my “worship” for God and “living” for Him to what I’ve been thinking about recently…

Yesterday I went to a Christian bookstore and bought three great books all on the theme on the relationship between Christianity and social/political issues. All were for a Christian’s involvement not just in evangelism and not just in social “service” or “work” but also in social and political action.

I’ve not only been reading and looking into a lot of political/social issues, but my desire has always to ground what I do and believe about social/political issues in the Word of God. And so I’ve also been reading Christian books that deal with this topic.

There’s a coming May 1 march in Sydney that I can’t wait to be part of. The past few days I heard at least two reports about it going to be violent. It’s probably just the media bias. It’s not usual that demonstrations like these turn violent. At least, a majority of those who march have a non-violent philosophy in the tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi. The recent April 20 March of more than 100,000 in Washington D.C. was even described by Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey as “an outstanding event” because of its non-violent nature. (Ironically, he also said, “You think I hate protestors? If it wasn’t for protestors, I wouldn’t have a job today. You think a black man could ever be police chief in this town if the civil rights demonstrations didn’t happen here in the 60’s. I owe it all to protestors.”) Of course, there will usually always be some people who spoil the image of the predominantly non-violent nature of the anti-globalization/capitalism/war movement by being violent. And the media usually unfairly focus on these people – a mere fraction of the total number of people, usually less than 1%.

But I was worried about the reports of violence. If it got violent, what would happen to me? I know my philosophy right now is of non-violence. I would demonstrate against and protest against the unjust wars and economic exploitation and all the injustice that goes on around the world, but I would never resort to violence. But what if I were caught up in the violence and the police goes around arresting everyone? Or what if the police were to provoke (for example, through starting the violence first) the protesters to violence in order to have a pretext to start arresting people – as they so often do.

I thought of that – what if I were caught in the rioting and got unfairly and wrongly arrested? It’s a possibility. But then I thought, who cares. I will continue to stand up for what I believe is right and be impeccable in my behavior as a demonstrator. Whatever happens, I leave it up to God.

I know I’m doing all this as a Christian and because I’m a Christian. Listening to the song just pumps me up. It reminds me that Jesus was

Crucified
laid behind a stone,
You lived to die,
rejected and alone.
Like a rose,
trampled on the ground,
You took the fall,
and thought of me
a bove all…

Knowing God’s great love for me, how can I even think of cowering away from a march which I believe God would want me to go to just because of being afraid of unjustly being arrested?

I know God loves the poor. I know He has a special heart for the poor. He hates injustice and would denounce all the injustice that’s going on in the Middle-East. I know He hates greed and exploitation and would have great harsh words for this Capitalistic system we have in this world. I know He would want me and every Christian to stand up for these truths He stands for – being in solidarity with the poor, loving the poor, helping the poor and oppressed, denouncing greed and war and hatred – so I’m going to do it whatever happens to me.

He was crucified. Going to jail is nothing in comparison…

He thought of me above all. Not so I can be self-centred, but that I can think of others above me and help others in any way I can. He modeled selflessness for me. What am I afraid of? If I’m afraid of what will happen to me, then that’s pure selfishness that I ought to be ashamed of!

I’ve thought of what will happen when I go back to Singapore and continue to share my burdens and convictions. Singapore is NOT a place that looks upon dissent kindly. It’s not a society that tolerates any form of socialism or Marxism or anti-Capitalism – not that I’m a socialist or Marxist, but I certainly see the evils of Capitalism and will continue to speak out against it and stand up for the poor and oppressed.

Will I be arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) there? I don’t know. Maybe so, maybe not. But it doesn’t concern me. If I go to jail, I will gladly do so.

I basically come from a well-off family. I live a pretty comfortable life. But the past year or so I’ve found great meaning – in seeking to help the poor and oppressed. It’s a pity it has to take the form of going against the grain of thinking of the world. But if that has to be, that has to be. I need to seek the praise of God, not the acceptance of man. Jesus’ thinking went against that of the world. He was rejected and frowned upon for his beliefs and actions. Let the same happen to me if it will. It’s not that I want to be a martyr but it’s that I’ve found great meaning and joy in all that I do. Nothing can be more meaningful than helping the poor and oppressed and seeking to make a difference! Nothing can be more fulfilling than not living for your own desires but living for others.

You thought of me above all God. I want to think of You above all, and I want to live for You as though You truly are above all…because You truly are above all…

Three teenagers just got shot by Israelis. Young teenagers! Why? Because they sought to get back at the Israelis. One father described what had been going in the mind of his son:

He asked me: “Why is it that only the Palestinians cannot have a state? Why doesn’t America help? Why don’t the other Arab states help?”(Independent News, Robert Fisk in Gaza City, 26 April 2002)

Indeed, I can feel the pain of these young boys. If we only face what they face daily by the Israelis then we may understand why so many choose to be suicide bombers. I don’t agree with the violence of the suicide bombers, but let us not judge them as yet. My guess is that if we were in the situation of the Palestinians and face enormous injustice and oppression, a great deal of us would probably not mind risking our lives to show our frustration and anger at the Israelis. We think that’s ridiculous and we’ll never do that. Well, I think if your country is under occupation for decades, the context changes dramatically…

Another father of a dead boy said:

I could not believe this. At his age, any other boy – and I’ve been to England, the United States, India, Pakistan – yes any other boy just wants to be educated, to be happy, to earn money, to be at peace. But our children here cannot find peace.

If we only knew the frustration, we would be moved. Too little know what’s going on. Most can’t be bothered. Ignorance is bliss for them because they don’t have to get involved in the pain of the Palestinians and so many others around the world.

Jesus knows the pain. Jesus, the one above all, thought of us above all, and died – the least we can do is obey Him. The least we can do is to think of others above all just as He would – to get involved in the lives of those who are so much less fortunate than us – even if it’s at the expense of our own comfort. For that’s what Jesus did for us…

Forget our consumeristic attitude. Forget our materialism. Forget thinking only of ourselves and wanting only to enjoy our life. Forget about thinking of making big money and traveling to exotic places. NOT when the world is dying. Not when billions live below poverty level. NOT in Jesus name. Never…

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