Time for the Church to Love

Last Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong presented his National Day Rally speech.

Strangely, the topic of race and religion dominated his speech.

However, in view of the inevitable force that is changing our social, political and economic landscape in our global world, I reckoned that his speech was somewhat a timely reminder and a wake-up call to us Christians.

That force is that of globalisation which is pushing people together even closer than before. And religion or its fundalmentalists and dogmatists are becoming an opposing and dangerous force that divides and threatens our society’s progress.

“Catalysts” for further globalisation

Back in early June, US President Obama visited Cairo, Eygpt and delivered a groundbreaking message to urge an end to suspicion and discord between America and the Muslim world.

He highlighted that “the relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars.”

In a gesture of reconciliation with the Islamic world, Obama further conceded that tension “has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.”

Even Tony Blair, the Bristish ex-Prime Minister had launched his new inter-faith foundation called the Tony Blair Faith Foundation this April.

What makes the foundation’s work distinctive is its emphasis on uniting people of different religious traditions in practical action – with the eradication of malaria a key priority at this moment.

The Church’s divine appointment

With this backdrop, I strongly believe that if there is a such divine appointment for the Church to represent Christ in His fullness, it is NOW.

For too long Christianity that was founded upon a legacy of love has been tainted with the worst sort of intolerance and prejudice.

Most troubling of all is witnessing how the teachings of Christ has been hijacked by believers who hate in the name of love.

“When people worship Him today – or even speak his name – the object of their devotion is unlikely to be who they think he is,” said Deepak Chopra in his book titled- The Third Jesus, “it seems clearly that He has served to divide peoples and nations. He has led to destructive wars in the name of religious fantasies.”

Even in his rally speech, PM Lee cited the AWARE saga as an attempted takeover “by a religiously motivated group who shared a strong religious fervour to enter civil space”.

I submit to you that if we Christians truly desire to spread the message towards fulfilling the Great Commission, then we cannot afford to be known or driven by a religious motivation.

As a people, we need to be more concerned about what is right than about being right. We need to be love motived, simply because God is love; being the message is more important than us merely spreading the message.

Christ in this 21st century not only needs to be accurately represented, but also re-presented.

Be AWARE: Where is the Church?

The recent Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) debacle had created quite a furore on a national level.

In the end, the now defunct new guard led by then newly elected President, Ms Josie Lau was overthrown by the old guard with a resounding no vote of confidence against them by AWARE members.

Even as the dust has settled after that extraordinary general meeting (EGM), there are still plenty of opinions and views of this AWARE saga being debated in cyberspace.

However, it is not my provocative to take sides.

Out-of-touch of issues

In my personal opinion, this AWARE debacle offers many takeaways and one that has largely exposed the gap between the Church and the world.

From my observation of the new guard’s actions, the reports from the media and the general reaction of Christians, it clearly revealed how out-of-touch and out-of-depth we are with our world.

Firstly, the new guard had cited that the reason for their sudden takeover of AWARE’s leadership was due to the old guard’s agenda in promoting lesbianism and homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle through sex education in certain schools.

Apparently, that discovery caused a knee-jerk reaction to their dubious takeover with the new guard seizing nine of the 12 positions on AWARE’s executive committee. It was subsequently revealed that 80 of the 102 the election attendees turned out to be newbies who had joined AWARE in recent months.

More unhappiness and tension escalated when Dr Thio Su Mien, the self-styled “Feminist Mentor” revealed that she was the person responsible for the takeover. Later, it was also found that she and several of the new elected leaders were members of a same church.

Out-of-depth in relating

Secondly, many members were left disappointed in how Ms Lau and her team was not able to answer many of the questions asked at the EGM.

It was reported that even though members kept asking to “please give me the right of reply”, the new guard stuck mainly to statements that had been already released to the media.

For instance, when queried on their stand on homosexuality, Ms Lau sidestepped the issue and maintained that AWARE would remain a secular society that would provide support to homosexual women.

One well-known blogger, Yawning Bread who was observing at the EGM made an interesting comment describing like-minded Christians supporters of Ms Lau at the EGM displaying “an over-earnest politeness in speech and demeanour, punctuated by frequent invocations of blessings and goodwill”.

He further commented that this behavioural pattern was the result of ‘brain-washing’. He wrote that “they were likely people who were uncomfortable with conflict and ambiguity, whose personality is such that they prefer order and hierarchy”.

I think with such encounters with Christians, it is not surprising that the world perceives us as being sheltered, anti-homosexual or judgemental.

Reasons for the gap

I believe that this gap between the Church and the world is caused because for too long we as Christians have loved people with a conditional love.

It is sad that we, Christians are known more for whom we hate rather than whom we love.

Too often, we have been too quick to judge and only choose to love readily those that are similar to us or who share closely to our beliefs and lifestyle.

Another reason might be us being too pre-occupied with church-related activities or ministries that have unknowingly drawn us away from the lost or unchurch.

Ironically, these activities or ministries have lost their original intent but have become self-serving and losing its relevance and effectiveness in reaching out to the lost and unchurch.

Whether intentionally or not, this has caused the Church to be out of touch with the world; losing our ability to identify and relate  compassionately towards the lost and unchurch.

Time to love radically and be the Church

We should not merely confine our love within the Christian community. Like Jesus, we must engage the culture we live in and start radically loving and serving people beyond the “four walls of the church”.

When we are IN the world serving others and not in isolation away from others, we’ll be in a better position to respond and address any moral or social issue in their early stage. This avoids any unnecessary knee-jerk reaction from us.

More importantly, we will be able to earn the credibility to lead in addressing such issues and avoid the same awkward situation that the new guard found themselves in when questioned during the EGM.

“Where were you when women were abused and battered in the home, and the girls raped?

“Where were you when children and husbands of Singapore women were denied citizenship?”

“Where were you? You were not there.”