when the romance of missions crashes into reality…

Just another Friday on the island

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I took this picture in Calolbon on the island of Catanduanes on Good Friday.

I, like the people I serve on this island, have lived in oppressive, misconstrued obedience trying to please and manipulate a deity hoping to gain spiritual acceptance and material rewards. I endured relative suffering, feigning piety that was ridiculously punishing but declaring, “life is grand,” as humble evidence that I had what it took to enter into eternity. Though the Calolbongangons worship a beautiful, hand carved idol stone and shuffle down the road, wailing as it parades through town (some on bloodied knees or bare feet), I had erected my own man-made gods. I appeared to be a good person but with a heart as black as a psychopath’s.” Doing good gave me a better chance at becoming rich, successful, and happy. And I followed those idols until my bloodied knees showed bone.

But my old self died…I killed it. A God unlike any idol I could possibly follow transformed me. He didn’t require me to do anything religious to gain acceptance into his fold. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t please Him enough to get on the right side of the “book of life.” And He could not be manipulated into doing my will like scores believe supernatural beings will do if you make the proper sacrifices. In fact, it was HIM that moved toward us, willing to pay whatever price was demanded to please the people He created and loved so much…ready to manipulate the very laws of the universe that He set up for the sake of mankind. The ransom paid for our hostaged souls was his life. And he wasn’t just martyred. He wasn’t merely tortured and executed like other humans before and after him. Let’s face it; every person on earth deserves some sort of punishment for something because absolutely nobody is perfect, even good and apparently blameless people. But not Jesus. He was innocent, pure and clean. What must have stung as much as torture and death was enduring the rejection, accusation of unrighteousness, and hatred spat upon him by the very beings He created.

It is by the grace of God that I no longer suffer from man-made oppression. I have been saved through Jesus’ work and my cry of belief has given me the right to be called a child of God. So my Creator has transformed me. Yes, he was crucified, but I also declare that “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). And, along with my brethren around the world, we face suffering with our heads held high…a joyful suffering, journeying with the poor, taking care of orphans and widows, visiting murderers in their prisons, holding AIDs patients’ hands in hospice, holding past-out drug addicts on the bathroom floor of a gas station, declaring and sharing our faith in God and blindly loving people, even those that we serve who laugh at our foolish actions and beliefs.

Our great example this Easter Weekend is the God “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2). Believe that and it will go well with you.

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