Good God, We Could Have Been Killed Today!

Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned and Steve suggested that I come outside… “I think there may be trouble about to happen. There are people outside putting leaflets on all the cars and they say they intend to come in and disrupt the service.” He handed me a leaflet showing vitriolic hate against the United Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church. A photograph of each leader was displayed with rhetoric about the denominations being guilty of rape, murder, child abuse etc. This was accompanied with an official looking letter authorizing the bearer to shut any facility down in the name of International Common Law.

It was the beginning of a family service this morning (Sunday) during the second song. The band was playing, many were singing, a few were waving flags as an expression of worship. We are a community desiring to grow and learn in experiencing and expressing the love of Jesus in a cynical world. We’re – all of us – works in progress. None of us profess to have arrived anywhere that causes us to be self-righteous, feel arrogant or holding every answer to many unanswered questions. Our message is of a God who is good and who loves with passion and purpose, who heals and redeems, and who never gives up on anyone.

I walked down the hallway where Steve was talking to a disheveled couple who were adamant that they had authority to serve us papers and have me arrested. “You will be in jail for 25 years,” I was told. “Who are you?” I asked, “I’m calling the police, you have no right to be here.” “Who we are is none of your business, and I’m serving you papers to shut down this facility. If you ignore the order the sheriff will arrest you in 30 days.” Fortunately Steve is an RCMP officer, so once the papers were ‘served’ the couple were escorted out of the building and the leaflets removed from the cars. The matter has been reported to our local RCMP and we’ll leave it there.

Earlier I’d had a conversation with someone who I hadn’t seen for a while over the Christmas season. “How are you?” I inquired with a smile, “I’ve missed you, I believe your wife was sick.” “No,” he said with a slightly awkward expression and turned away. “What is it?” I asked. I like him. We’ve had a few chats about aspects of the traditional church that he struggles with. I respect him for questioning. “I have an issue with Christmas trees in church. Do you know the origins?” “I’m sorry to hear that,” I responded. “Yes, I understand, but many things change over time and where does one draw the line in determining what is acceptable?…..” We continued an amicable conversation before parting company.

Later back home the television news covered the massive demonstrations for freedom of speech after the tragic massacres in France this past week. It took me back to the fear and anger I felt as a student in Cape Town when the police stormed onto the university campus with guns and dogs. Of riots and tear gas and the confusing mix of fear and defiant courage in a desperate and ‘feeling helpless’ attempt to do something in the name of freedom. I had tears in my eyes as I watched the news; defiance flamed in my heart as I reflected on what I would have done if those people came into the church this morning with guns ready to kill. It’s not a great distance between posters on cars and a more radical stance. The couple I encountered absolutely believed that what they were doing was right.

I passionately believe that everyone I disagree with should have the freedom to express opinions and to voice their thoughts; as long as their freedom does not lead to violence and harming others (born and unborn). If your sexual orientation is different, or your view of global warming, or whatever…… that’s fine…. As long as you give me the same freedom to express disagreement (something that was certainly not tolerated in issues relating to sexuality).

In our ‘free world’ trade unions have not tolerated dissension, management insist on political correctness, political spin (not lies of course) and diplomacy (making deals) are the norm, and so we could go on… within the church, on the lips of atheists – and everyone in between.

I am them of course – a fanatic (in some eyes). I have committed my heart and life to following this one called Jesus who died on a Cross for freedom. Ironically he was killed by religious leaders in the name of God who were authorized by Romans in the name of political expediency. Jesus wasn’t making a stand (or taking the fall) for either camp. Instead His message was one of humility; unpopular for declaring that the seeds of freedom are birthed and nurtured in the human heart, watered by the love of God, and expressed in lives serving others rooted in our spirits connected with His (human beings are meant to be solar powered – receiving light and recharging from the Son). Freedom comes from within first and foremost.

I would lay down my life for freedom and the right for every person to ‘be free’. I don’t believe it is a human right – I believe it is a God-given right. If there is a God then I may have to give an account for how I’ve received and used ‘my freedom’ The scariest scenario is that in a society advocating freedom everyone believes their ‘god’ authorizes and endorses their actions – even the god of unbelief worshiped by atheists.

The struggle for freedom is a hard reality to live with…. If I’d been in Paris I would have marched – because pursuing freedom for all is far better than the alternative. Right now I thank God for his protection over us this morning. And I pray for His comfort around those who grieve the loss of loved ones who last Sunday night never dreamed that seven days later their light would have been snuffed out so suddenly.

Without the resurrection of Jesus I would find hope hard to find in this present darkness.

I can’t end without including the song of Southern Africa that has symbolized ‘freedom’ all my life. Nkosi Sikelel’ iafrika (when the men sing it rises from the heart of a courageous continent). I heard it in the streets weeping with teargas, in protest marches, and around a blazing fire in a township the night after a police raid. Now it’s our turn…..

kosi Sikeleli Africa
Malup hakanyiswu phando lwayo
Yiswa imithanda zo yethu
Nkosi Sikelela
Thina lusapo lwayoNkosi Sikeleli Africa
Malup hakanyiswu phando lwayo
Yiswa imithanda zo yethu
Nkosi Sikelela
Thina lusapo lwayo

Woza Moya (Woza, Woza)
Woza Moya (Woza, Woza)
Woza Moya oyingcwele
Nkosi Sikelela
Thina lusapo lwayo

Morena boloka sechaba sa heso (sa heso)
O fedise dintwa le matswenyeho
Morena boloka sechaba sa heso
O fedise dintwa le matswenyeho
O seboloke (O se boloke)
O seboloke morena
O seboloke sechaba, Sechaba sa Heso
Sechaba sa Africa

God bless Africa
May her glory be lifted high
Hear thou our prayers
God bless us
Us Your childrenGod bless Africa
May her glory be lifted high
Hear thou our prayers
God bless us
Us Your children

Come Spirit
Come Spirit
Come Spirit Holy
God bless us
Us Your children

Lord, we ask you to protect our nation
Intervene and end all conflicts
Lord, we ask you to protect our nation
Intervene and end all conflicts
Protect us
Protect us Lord
Protect us, Protect our nation
Protect Africa

John Cox

Offering Pastoral Counselling to encourage, heal, transform, and give hope.

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